Stay Loose

Cover of the album 'Stay Loose' by Jimmy Smith.

While in the vicinity last month I stopped in Blackwood, and, for the first time, took a look around the town’s second-hand vinyl emporium: Heart of the Valleys Records. It’s a small place but one with a very good selection well worth browsing through. One of the LPs I bought there was Stay Loose by jazz organist extraordinaire Jimmy Smith. It’s subtitled Jimmy Smith Sings Again. Smith had few peers – if any – in his command of the Hammond Organ, I don’t think it’s unfair to say that his singing wasn’t at quite the same level. If anything, I wouldn’t have minded a little less of his raspy vocals.

There are seven tracks on the record, four where Smith was part of a fifteen-piece band, and another three featuring him in a quintet setting. The mood is exuberant and upbeat throughout. There are bluesy numbers but they are by no means melancholy. My favourite track is the one closing side A, on which where there’s no singing as such, just some expressions of enthusiasm & exhortations from Smith to his bandmates: ‘One For Members’.

The cover design comes under the heading of ‘it seemed like a good idea at the time’. It’s not clear why the organist is wearing overalls and a crash helmet. Admittedly, he looks pretty happy about it: perhaps he was fed up of being photographed while sitting at the keyboard. There are some more pictures of him on the back of the sleeve, along with some unduly hyperbolic sleeve-notes by one Sidney Eden. It’s an entertaining and enjoyable album, but by no means “one of Jimmy Smith’s greatest records”.