Monday, April 5, 2021

Dr. Lonnie Smith - Breathe

Out now on Blue Note is Dr. Lonnie Smith's fine set of live jazz tunes bookended by a couple of wonderful collaborations with Iggy Pop, on which Iggy's distinctive baritone renders the lyrics of a couple of great Summer of Love standards into almost spoken word pieces. The first one, "Why Can't We Live Together", is a pretty inspired choice. The original was not a pop tune in a conventional sense - Timmy Thomas anchored the song with a drum machine and then did a lot of improvising on the keyboard. They took over a minute out of the song to get to a radio version. Here, Smith takes the improvising to another level, stretching it out to over 6:00. I'm so glad to have this version of this song:


"Sunshine Superman" is another quirky tune that these guys take on to create a distinctive version of their own. Donovan's sort of behind the beat, swaying vocal makes a good take off point for Iggy's unhurried, warm vocal:


In between these two are some well-played tunes, covers like "Too Damn Hot" and "Epistrophy" and Smith originals like "Bright Eyes" and "Track 9". Smith's band features some stars in their own right: Jonathan Blake (drums), Jonathan Kreisberg (guitar), Robin Eubanks (trombone), John Ellis and Jason Marshall on saxophones and Sean Jones on trumpet, with Richard Bravo adding percussion on the two bookend covers. Don Was produced the record and it's an example of quality-meets-quality, with great results. 

Here is Smith, on how the record got done: “I was playing with my trio at Arts Garage in Delray Beach in Florida. Iggy would come by and say he wanted to play with me. I let him play slaparoo and he loved it. He enjoyed playing with us. We thought about recording a few songs, so we went in with my trio backing us up, and it worked.” I'll say it worked. 

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