Lonnie Smith – Afro-Desia (LP)
30.00 € inc. VAT
The second in our Mr Bongo series opening the vault on classic recordings from the fabled Groove Merchant Records catalogue. This time the spotlight turns to the Hammond B3 organ maestro Lonnie Smith, as we proudly present a reissue of his cosmic jazz-funk journey, ‘Afro-Desia’.
Originally released in 1975, this much-loved album was produced by Groove Merchant label owner Sonny Lester and features the mysterious ‘Compliments Of A Friend’ on guitar. Considering Smith was part of George Benson’s quartet in the ‘60s, that not so discreet veil appears to have been lifted on who this ‘friend’ might be. However, presumably due to contractual reasons, Benson had to remain covert for this recording. The lineup doesn’t stop there though, with the likes of legendary bassist Ron Carter and Grammy award winning saxophonist Joe Lavano joining the outfit.
An album of two parts, the first side sees Lonnie Smith in a spaced-out, cosmic jazz funk setting. The opener ‘Afrodesia’ is a funk flexing, steamy groover. Greg Hopkins and Lavano trading off on trumpet and sax respectively, as that bassline walks its way over fluttering jazz percussion and off-kilter electronics. ‘Spirits Free’ is an epic 15-minute free-wheeling jazz-funk workout. A mind melting trip that rises and falls, in parts spacey and serene, with Smith’s organ playing complimented by stretched out horns. Before long it opens out into unconstrained fluid sections that do its title proud. Pure ‘70s jazz-funk at its most stellar.
Side B takes a more classic soul-jazz flavour, with touches of Latin spice. ‘Straight To The Point’ kicks off with a carnival zing, full-frontal horn and organ lines providing a fiery party punch. It’s a swinging jazz cut that used to receive spins by DJs at Russ Dewbury’s Jazz Room’s sessions in Brighton in the ‘90s.
Finally, ‘Favors’ and ‘The Awakening’ close out the release. Two sure shot, quintessential Lonnie Smith firing Hammond grooves. Each conjuring up images of packed out, smokey jazz bar jams, every player letting loose with masterful improv sections to whip the crowd up into a frenzy.
A truly wonderful album, and an archetypal release showcasing the height of jazz musician excellence from this era.
Release date: 2024-03-29