This Verve reissue captures Hammond organ master Jimmy Smith, guitarist George Benson, and drummer Donald Bailey performing live in 1968 for a fun-loving crowd at an intimate club in Atlanta, Georgia. As per usual with Smith, the fare is bluesy soul-jazz par excellence, with a warm feeling reminiscent of Sunday church meetings and backyard barbecues. But where many of Smith's albums pack a funky wallop suitable for dance-floor workouts, THE BOSS hangs back a bit, grooving smoothly along blues progressions that allow Benson and Smith to stretch out.
The trio setting abets the reserved vibe here; there is an almost chamber-jazz feel at times, as Smith and Benson trade leads, while Bailey keeps the ship steady. Smith's mastery of the keys unfurls itself in flurries of activity (especially on the swirling clouds of sound on the title cut), and Benson's beautifully phrased solos remind listeners that he was a fine straight-up jazz player (before moving into commercial pop in the later 1970s and '80s). While not as hot and sweaty as some of Smith's output, THE BOSS's grooves are no less admirable (or intense) for their measure and grace.
Personnel: Jimmy Smith (organ); George Benson , Nathan Page (guitar); Donald Bailey (drums).
01 Some of My Best Friends Are Blues
02 The Boss
03 This Guy's in Love with You
05 Tuxedo Junction