April 18, 2017

Jimmy Smith - Live At Club Baby Grand (1956)


Live At Club Baby Grand is one of my favorite Jimmy Smith sessions. The two volume set represents the warm and comfortable mid-50s sound to the fullest; actually it sounds like it was recorded a few years earlier than 1956 (but that's not true). Baby Grand is one of the most lo-fi dates Blue Note has to offer. Most 50s live recordings were muddy, but this is on another level. I doubt anybody will find the material unlistenable in the slightest since the murkiness does nothing but add to the character of the album. Content-wise, this is a standard organ, guitar, drums trio going off on some loose jams. The instruments sound tight and on top of each other in the mix, a combination of what I imagine as a tight bandstand and early mono mastering techniques. I love the aesthetic of all this, simply nothing beats a soft and comfy 50s bop recording. Jimmy Smith is one of the earliest jazz organists consistently recorded by a label and as such is one of the style's chief influences. Because of this I think it is easy to overlook how it took Blue Note and Smith a few years to unlock his full potential. His studio recordings up until the House Party/The Sermon session are quality, but more-or-less forgettable. Maybe this is because Blue Note didn't know how to bring the club performance atmosphere to the studio for Smith to thrive (off of the audience's energy), so thankfully this two disc set exists to showcase Smith's power from the earliest days in his early career.

Sample

At Clube Baby Grand [Volumes 1 & 2]