Strong Brew


Black Coffee (Milestone, 1997) pairs two invigorating titles by Johnny "Hammond" Smith first released by Riverside in the Hammond B-3 master's 1960s soul-jazz prime: The original Black Coffee, a small club live date recorded with guitarist Eddie McFadden (who also played with Jimmy Smith) in '62; plus studio sessions featuring a coltish Houston Person, whose gutbucket tenor sax would soon blow through the instrumental soul-jazz world like a storm, recorded in '63.

While each half provides a nice balance of standards and off-the-cuff swingers, these studio tracks present a more mature, sophisticated sound by blending tenor and trumpet. "Lambert's Lodge" jumps and pops with the crackling energy of rhythmic blues, and "Departure" leads Person through some of the first steps into his larger-than-life tenor sound.

Even so, Hammond's B-3 organ funk is almost always better rendered live and hot instead of from the studio. The title track is a sumptuous blues stroll, with McFadden's guitar and Smith's B-3 spinning out thick gooey lines of soul and funk. McFadden dresses his guitar in more formal blues for Benny Golson's classic "I Remember Clifford," while Smith's B-3 moans the gospel of the blues through its church organ sound.

If you like this hot shot of Black Coffee, consider pouring out more from Smith's overflowing Concord catalog, like the Prestige compilations Legends Of Acid Jazz (1996), two 1969 funk sessions that showcase legendary boogaloo drummer Bernard "Pretty" Purdie, and Legends Of Acid Jazz: Soul Flowers ('99), which compiles studio selections from 1967-'68.