Jimmy Smith | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Jimmy Smith 

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The thrill of hearing Jimmy Smith stems partly from the knowledge that you're hearing history. When you listen to the Hammond organ played by the man who turned it from a novelty into a jazz staple, there's bound to be at least a slight frisson--like you might get, say, if Alexander Bell showed up to install your phone jack. But in Smith's case, there's also the danger of familiarity: he's not doing much that's different, and since his sound echoes in the style of almost every other jazz organist of the last 30 years, one can easily feel it's all been heard before. Smith is at his best when supported and challenged by the right mix of sidemen--which is why his appearance this weekend is so highly recommended. Former Chicagoan Phil Upchurch, as slippery smooth a guitarist as you can find, is coming along from LA; Von Freeman, the roughest-hewn of Chicago's saxophone geniuses, will be on hand; and the resulting seminar in soul may not be for the faint of heart. Jimmy Smith's visit caps off a week-long jazz party at the Blackstone Hotel, which began Tuesday with bop-trumpet legend Red Rodney's new quintet. (They continue through the weekend as well.) Tonight and Saturday, 9 and 11 PM, and Sunday, 4, 8, and 10 PM, Joe Segal's Jazz Showcase, Blackstone Hotel, 636 S. Michigan; 427-4300.

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