“A riddle wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a turban!” — Jazz Times
Dr. Lonnie Smith is a master of the Hammond B3 organ. Over five decades he has created a worldwide fan-base for the B3 through over 70 albums.. His name is now synonymous with the instrument. Jazz Times magazine called him “a riddle wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a turban!” conjuring up the amazement he elicits. Dr. Lonnie was born in Lakawanna, New York, in 1942 to a musical family. His mother exposed him early on to gospel, blues and jazz. In his teens, he sang with his own vocal group. He called it The Supremes, long before Diana Ross got the inspiration. In the late 1950s he discovered the instrument he calls the “425 pound beast” when a local music store owner introduced him to his first B-3 and told him he could have it if he moved it out of the shop. Well we all know the rest!
Lonnie Smith’s first gigs were at Buffalo’s hottest club, The Pine Grill, where he came to the attention of musicians Jack McDuff, Lou Donaldson and George Benson. He soon moved to NYC and teamed up in 1966 with Benson. He landed a recording contract with Columbia and then with Blue Note thanks to his association with Donaldson, with whom he plays to this day.
By 1969 Down Beat had called him ‘Top Organist’ of the year. He has been selected many times as ‘Organ Keyboardist of the Year’ by the Jazz Journalists Association, and the accolades have never stopped. Dr. Lonnie has recorded and performed with Randy Brecker, John Abercrombie, Ronnie Cuber, Kenny Garrett, Lee Morgan, David ‘Fat Head’ Newman, Joe Lovano, Jimmy McGriff, Frank Foster, Ron Carter, Grover Washington, Jr., Dizzy Gillespie and many more. His musical evolution has included recording everything from tribute albums to Jimi Hendrix and John Coltrane to straight-ahead jazz, funk and acid-jazz recordings.
During the past decade there has been a resurgence of interest in the Hammond B3, and Dr. Lonnie has been amused to find himself sampled in rap, dance and house grooves and being credited as a forefather of Acid Jazz. His recent critically acclaimed recording of pop star Beck’s tunes has secured his relevance with yet another generation of fans. Revered throughout the world and popular among many disparate groups, his unique style and prolific output have elevated him to the status of living musical icon.
Dr. Lonnie Smith Trio features Dr. Lonnie Smith on organ, Jonathan Kreisberg on guitar and on drums. This is Dr. Lonnie Smith’s second appearance on the Litchfield Jazz Festival.