Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Jimmy Smith - The Cat

The Cat
Jimmy Smith (Arranged and Conducted by Lalo
Verve Records, 1964

Track list:

Side One:
Theme From Joy House

The Cat
Basin Street Blues
Main Title From "The

Side Two:
St. Louis Blues
Delon's Blues
Blues In The Night

So, Michael Jackson died while I was off. I've been seeing quite a bit of backlash against the coverage of Michael's death and I'm pretty tired of it as well. But I understand it. For about a decade, Michael Jackson may have been the single most recognizable and popular human on the planet. He reached Muhammad Ali, Pele, or the Pope type of fame. They interviewed a guy on TV who emigrated to Los Angeles from Africa in the 1980's just to be in the same city as Jackson. So imagine the kind of pressure Michael must have felt throughout his life. The expectations he shouldered were immense. He seemed like he felt he had to be perfect. You could see his attempts at gaining perfection in his face, through surgery...his records, through his choice of producers...his children, through a painstaking selection of donor wives...the guy was obsessed with meeting some impossible level of perfection that was by all standards, insane.

What does Michael Jackson have to do with
The Cat? Well, the first time I laid eyes on this record I thought there was no way it could live up to the expectations of perfection that instantly materialised in my head. Jimmy Smith is roundly considered THE jazz organist. His skills on the Hammond are legendary, he made the instrument a band unto itself. Check out The Sermon or Live at the Root Down if you require proof. Dude killed it, but Jimmy is only half of the awesome that ballooned my expectations. When I saw that the record was arranged and conducted by the awe-worthy Argentine Lalo Schifrin I nearly buckled. Schifrin became well known for his ultra hip film/TV work (Bullitt, Cool Hand Luke, Magnum Force, Mission Impossible) and pairing him with Smith seems so right.

And right it is. I LOVE this record.
Schifrin lulls you in to complacency on "Theme From Joy House" before giving you a full blown, angular blast of horns to announce the big band's arrival. From there, its all quick cuts and horn splashes pushed by Grady Tate's sublime drum skills. It's a picture postcard from the swingin' 60's. All Hugh Hefner, martini's, slim suits, and beehives. Its a record that you could play in its entirety in a bar and people would love you for it. Its the theme music in all of our heads when we put on a crisp suit(or killer dress) and stroll through the crisp fall air. In New York. With Russian spies chasing you. It matches your expectations brilliantly and, at points, exceeds them. Wish we could say the same for Michael Jackson...

Legendary/Tragic aspect:
Schifrin's working score for The Exorcist was tossed in to the parking lot of Warner Bros after it was rejected as "too scary". (thanks, Wikipedia!)

Availability: Easy to find

RIYL: Film Scores, Organs, The Early to Mid 60's, Madmen, Jazz, Clint Eastwood

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