Born July 3 1942, Buffalo’s Own, Jazz Master Dr. Lonnie Smith, an NEA Jazz Master known for his dynamism and wizardry on the Hammond B3 organ, died September 28, 2021 as reported to us by his family . He was 79 years old.
Lonnie Smith, he was an American jazz Hammond B3 organist who was a member of the George Benson quartet in the 1960s , He was Part Blue Note Record Family . He owned the label Pilgrimage,
Lonnies mother introduced him to gospel, blues, jazz and early rhythm and blues. As a teenager in the 1950s, Smith began learning music by ear and played trumpet and other brass instruments in school. After a brief stint in the Air Force, Smith returned home to Buffalo in the early 1960s, Around that same time, he began frequenting a music store owned by local accordion player Art Kubera, Smith recalls he told him he could have the organ if he moved it. He taught himself to play it and his career began.
He was soon working regularly at the Pine Grill in Buffalo. In 1964, Smith broke onto the international jazz scene when organist Jack McDuff’s young guitarist, George Benson, formed a group of his own. Benson secured Smith for the organ chair in his new quartet. After their residencies at Harlem’s Palm Cafe and Minton’s Playhouse that same year, both Benson and Smith were signed by Columbia Records and made albums as leaders.
When saxophonist Lou Donaldson hired Smith and Benson for 1967’s Blue Note smash Alligator Boogaloo, the result was a surprise jukebox hit whose title track landed on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
In August 1969. The album’s reception allowed his reputation to grow beyond the Northeast. He recorded another studio album, Drives, and another live album (unreleased at the time), Live at Club Mozambique (recorded in Detroit on May 21, 1970), before leaving Blue Note. He recorded one album in 1971 for Creed Taylor’s CTI label, which had already signed George Benson. After a break from recording, he then spent most of the mid-1970s with producer Sonny Lester and his Groove Merchant and then LRC labels. It resulted in four albums, with the music output veering between jazz, soul, funk, fusion and even the odd disco-styled track. Smith became a part of the Blue Note family once again in March 2015. He released his first Blue Note album in 45 years titled Evolution which was released January 29, 2016 featuring special guests: Robert Glasper and Joe Lovano.
In 2017 the National Endowment for the arts named him a Jazz Master, the country’s highest official honor for a jazz musician.
His second Blue Note album All in My Mind was recorded live at “The Jazz Standard” in NYC (celebrating his 75th birthday with his longtime musical associates: guitarist Jonathan Kreisberg and drummer Johnathan Blake), and released January 12, 2018.
His longtime label Blue Note Records confirmed the news on twitter. “We’re deeply saddened to announce that Hammond B3 organ legend Dr. Lonnie Smith passed away today at 79 years old,” Blue Note Records wrote on Twitter. “Doc was one of the funkiest & most inventive organists to ever walk the earth & we were proud to bring this remarkable man’s joyous music to fans all over the world.”
His family has reported to the challenger news there are no services planned at this time and will provide updates on a future celebration of Dr. Smiths Legacy , Life and Music.
This found video footage below is from the 2017 Chicago Jazz Festival (in which we were present and had the chance to experience his freedom and journey through signature sound sound) were he wowed a full arena of followers until the sun went down in true NES Jazz Master style.
Rest in power King