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Sunday, Dec. 5, 2004

LISTENING POST

Doctor Lonnie Smith: "Too Damn Hot"


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Hammond B3 organ master Doctor Lonnie Smith's latest release, "Too Damn Hot," starts out innocently enough. Smith lays down a funky little riff on "Norleans." Then, hardbop guitarist Peter Bernstein and funky guitarist Rodney Jones, taking time off from their own solo projects, both take tight, tasty solos. But after that, Smith turns up the heat and throws on the grease for a 10-song stereo-burner.

Of course, Smith, as on every release since the 1960s, knows how to lay back into sultry slower grooves, as he does on the title track. But even then he gradually turns up the energy with in-the-pocket bass lines and a taut two-handed style. "Back Track," for example, starts with a catchy melody, but then winds its way deeper and deeper into Hammond B3-style soulfulness.

The unusual twin-guitarist line-up gives an especially complex texture. The guitarists leap in on choruses for a fatter sound, but sneak in spacious chords and tight single-note counterpoints. However, it's the simple, upbeat numbers that really get you bouncing across the tatami. "Track 9" and the final "Evil Turn" race along like the very best "vitamin B3" classics from the '60s. The title says it right: This is certainly the best B3 release of the year.



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