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17 August 2018

FavAlbums #1: The Cat

A 1964 jazz album might not be the obvious place to start a list of my favourite albums. But Jimmy Smiths The Cat is about as pure a musical experience you could ever hope for. Melodic, joyous, uplifting, exhilarating and frequently jaw-dropping in its dexterity and impact. 

Possibly the biggest reason for the success of this album is the second name on the cover – the arrangement and conducting by Lalo Schifrin. Renowned in the late 60s and 70s for his funky soundtracks, this album sees him blending many genres into a fascinating whole.

The prime instrument is, obviously, Jimmy Smith’s wondrously fluid B3 Hammond organ, which brings a strong dose the gospel and the spiritual to these jazz standards. Jimmy’s incredible playing is accompanied by the biggest big band jazz horn section possible. When they deliver musical stings, as on Basin Street Blues, it knocks you sideways.

Backing the jazz/gospel blend is the fantastic percussion section. This brings Schifrin’s Bossa Nova background in – distinctly Latin rhythms from the percussion are complemented by incredible drumming from Grady Tate. As fluid as Smith is on the organ, Grady Tate’s drumming really brings life and bounce into the music.

UK audience’s of a certain age will probably remember Main Title From The Carpetbaggers as the theme to The Money Programme. The album has also been sampled by The Orb and Pizzicato Five. It seems to be a bit of a forgotten classic, but The Cat really is the cat’s whiskers.

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