Dr Lonnie Smith back for his funk-jazz medicine show

The capital’s main focal point for jazz, the Half Note Jazz Club, gets off to a flying start for the winter season tomorrow night with the rollicking jazz-funk organist Dr Lonnie Smith, back at the venue for seven consecutive nights after previous performances with longtime associate Lou Donaldson, the veteran blues-based saxophonist. Also on the popular venue’s agenda in the coming weeks is another worthy veteran act, Pucho and the Latin Soul Brothers – booked for November 5-11 – whose daring fusion of jazz, funk, soul, and R&B during the 1960s helped forge new dimensions in popular music. Wedged between the two seasoned acts is a one-week residency from relative newcomer Janice De Rosa, a crossover folk-blues-ethnic artist from New York. She has worked the French circuit in recent years and also toured as a backing vocalist with international artists from various fields, among them Cesaria Evora, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Brian Eno, and Suzanne Vega. The venue’s season-opener, Smith emerged back in the mid-1960s as a member of George Benson’s quartet before soon going on to play with Donaldson. It was the beginning of a long association. There’s a touching little story behind Smith’s roots and how this virtuoso musician acquired his Hammond organ. As a youngster, the aspiring player would frequent a local music store and hang around until closing time, which aroused the owner’s curiosity. When told, by young Smith, that his professional future would be solved if he could only afford to buy one of the shop’s instruments, the vendor responded by saying a solid-sized Hammond B-3 stocked in the basement was his if he could move it out. Smith, a self-taught musician, learnt fast, and soon became part of the regional jazz scene before making his recording debut on a George Benson album. It was the first of over 30 albums, many of them his own, that have involved Smith’s participation.