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Friday, Jan. 12, 2007



Dr. Lonnie Smith "Jungle Soul"

Hammond B-3 organ-master Lonnie Smith's 20-some recordings have never strayed from his jazz-funk roots, but never before has he dug down so deep as on his newest, "Jungle Soul."

Gone is the big, greasy sound of 2004's "Too Damn Hot!" and in its place pulsing rhythms and intricate melodies engage with even greater sophistication.

The interplay of two guitars, drums and B-3 (whose bass pedals and racks of keyboards should really be considered three instruments) remains tight and attentive on every tune.

On the title track, the band sets out a funky rhythm under an African melody, whose nuances they work over with focused intensity. On "Freedom Jazz Dance," drummer Allison Miller hammers home a steady, anchoring beat as the guitarists call and answer each other's clean, nimble lines.

Smith's organ playing achieves a visceral impact. He plays both jazzier and funkier than on his classic releases of the late 1960s. Thelonius Monk's "Bemsha Swing" never danced like this before.

Reinventing core rhythms while playing around with the melodies offers a new vision of the B-3 group's potential and a great, good time.

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