Although Al Smith was a gospel singer by trade, having toured with the Gospel Clefs, he dabbled in the blues. And while he had no intention of becoming a professional blues singer, he so impressed Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis with his ringing, melisma-dripping tenor voice at a jam session in Newark that the popular jazz tenor saxophonist decided to present him in his "showcase" series for Prestige. Most impressive of the selections on this September 20, 1959 recording, which became the first title in the company’s new Bluesville line, were Smith’s plaintive readings of two blues ballads by the late, great Johnny Ace. The original liner notes claim that Smith wrote the remainder himself, though many are highly derivative and "Night Time Is the Right Time" is, in fact, a shuffle treatment of the same-titled slow blues popularized by both Nappy Brown and Ray Charles. Nevertheless, Smith proved a rather commanding, somewhat original stylist, and with world-class support from Lockjaw’s fat-toned, arpeggio-rich tenor and Shirley Scott’s solid Hammond B-3, the novice bluesman's debut turned out to be an inspired idea.
with Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, Shirley Scott, Wendell Marshall, Arthur Edgehill