The Blue Note 4000 Project: 4002 – Jimmy Smith, House Party (1958)

Catalog Number: Blue Note 4002 – Previous | Next

    Musicians
    Jimmy Smith (or), Lee Morgan (tpt), Curtis Fuller (tb), George Coleman (as), Lou Donaldson (as), Tina Brooks (ts), Kenny Burrell (g), Eddie McFadden (g), Donald Bailey (d), Art Blakey (d)

    Cover photo: Francis Wolff
    Design: Reid Miles
    Liner notes: Robert Levin

    Recorded by Rudy Van Gelder at The Manhattan Towers Hotel Ballroom, August 25, 1957 & February 25, 1958

    Originally released 1958


    Date first heard: ca. 2015

    Until it becomes unsustainable, I am going to try to get these 4000 Project posts out on Tuesdays and Fridays.

    My Take

    One of the more challenging aspects of this project is going to be resisting the urge to use each record as an opportunity to give a history lesson. While I fully intend to include some of that along the way, this title alone could easily justify a several thousand word post. Take a look at the sidemen. This is a veritable who’s who of the classic era of Blue Note. Digging in too deep at this early stage will ensure that the project never gets finished.

    I probably first heard Jimmy Smith on the mid-’90s Christmas compilation CD, Have Yourself a Jazzy Little Christmas. Even before I knew any of their names, I’ve always enjoyed great B3 playing. And the self-taught (on organ, anyway) Jimmy, more than any other single player, developed his formidable chops and made the instrument popular in jazz circles. Thus, I’ve been listening to him and his seemingly infinite discography for quite a while now.

    Let me start with the title, House Party. In my romanticized vision of the late 1950s, I love the idea of a bunch of couples, decked out in smart semi-formal wear, drinking cocktails while the hi-fi plays. What could be better than socializing with friends while your latest jazz records play in the background?

    Consisting of just four tunes, this is a really fun album. A couple of blues and a couple of blues-inflected standards that literally every guest would know. Everyone is happy. Perfect for a house party indeed. (Imagine the reception from your guests just six or seven years later, when you put on Andrew Hill or Eric Dolphy’s latest. Where did you say the coats were?)

    TL;DR: Highly recommended session with an all-star cast of present and soon-to-be Blue Note superstars. And boy, some young ‘uns: Morgan, 19; Fuller, 23; and Coleman, 22.

    Favorite track: “Au Privave”, a Bird blues that never gets old.

    Miscellaneous

    A rare Rudy Van Gelder session from the era that was not recorded in his parent’s living room studio.

    As of this writing, Curtis Fuller (86), Lou Donaldson (94), and Kenny Burrell (89) are all still with us!

    What’s your favorite Jimmy Smith record?

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