April 28, 2016

Jimmy Smith - Root Down (1972)


I grew up jamming out to Root Down and also the Beastie Boys' song of the same name (which heavily samples the title track of this album) so I've always figured everyone knows this and considers it the most legendary jazz-funk album. But as the years have passed I've noticed that I rarely see it mentioned on forums, blogs, and so forth. Believe it or not, I'm not even a huge fan of jazz-funk. Unlike some classic jazz-heads, I don't think the sub-genre isn't inherently sellout, but there is definitely a higher percentage of lukewarm and trend-fitting albums in the catalog (and Jimmy Smith's own Verve discography) than in the bop from a decade before. Root Down does a great job avoiding every rut jazz-funk albums tend to fall in with its high octane flare. This live recording is of exceptional quality and captures every instrument individually for the listener. The fiery interactions between Jimmy and his guitarist are the album's centerpiece. There is a funk groove laid down by a separate bassist (Jimmy rarely uses the foot pedals for this session) and percussionist, but it isn't humdrum bullshit that takes away from the Hammond B3 wrecking everything in its path. Root Down centers around three of the most cooking jams I've heard in any genre, Sagg Shootin' His Arrow, Slow Down Sagg, and of course, its great title track. Jimmy really takes advantage of his young and hip band and lack of corny Oliver Nelson arrangements to thoroughly vaporize his audience. The band plays on some absolutely exceptional takes of R&B standards too; this includes the best cover of Let's Stay Together ever made. Root Down is one of the most feel-good and invigorating albums out there and one of the last great recordings the seminal artist ever made. I don't think it gets the attention it deserves either, so do me a favor and check it out.

Sample

Root Down