Tag Archives: Jimmy Smith

Mission: Accomplished

Why so few posts here lately? Blame it on senioritis.

Our son’s senior year of high school, now down to just a handful of days, has been a blur. You want to save each memory, savor each moment, but there are so many, and they come so fast.

One such moment was Wednesday night, when Evan sang in his last choir concert. A bass-baritone, he was in four groups and sang in 12 numbers. The one that might linger longest in our memories is the surprise from the ’60s.

In the program, the first number for the Concert Choir was listed as “Mission: Impossible,” arr. Emerson.

Can’t be the same song, I thought. If it was that “Mission: Impossible,” Lalo Schifrin would be listed as the composer. Can’t be a song for a choir, I thought. There aren’t any lyrics.

Oh, they sang “Mission: Impossible,” all right. They sang the Schifrin composition, “a great a cappella showcase for pop, jazz and show choirs” as arranged by Roger Emerson.

Many of the 32 members of the Concert Choir reached into their jackets and dresses and put on shades. Then they clasped their hands, pointed their index fingers and cocked their thumbs. Then the IMF team moved stealthily about the stage, mixing precise choreography with precise scat singing.

“You know,” I said to Evan after that tremendous performance, “I have several versions of that song at home.”

“You do?”

“Yeah. I even have a soundtrack LP from that show.”

But we’ve explored that here before. Here’s another cool cover, with the great Jimmy Smith giving the Hammond B-3 organ another workout.


“Mission: Impossible,” Jimmy Smith, from “Livin’ It Up!” 1968. The LP is out of print as such, but is available on a 2-on-1 CD with Smith’s 1967 “Respect” LP and digitally.

If you’re wondering what the East High performance was like, this is close. It’s from Fort Collins High School in Colorado from 2010. They also did a good job, but the East Concert Choir turned IMF team had better choreography.

Please visit our other blog, The Midnight Tracker, for more vintage vinyl, one side at a time.

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Filed under May 2013, Sounds

A smaller Christmas, Day 4

There are exactly 900 songs in the Christmas playlist in at AM, Then FM world headquarters. You’d think I could pick one.

But then I think, if you’ve read all the Christmas posts over the last five years, some of these songs must be getting real familiar.

So here’s something not posted before, some groovy ’60s jazz.


“We Three Kings Of Orient Are,” Jimmy Smith, from “Christmas ’64,” 1964.

On which we get an elegant, traditional intro that lasts a minute. Then Mr. Smith gets to riffing on his Hammond B-3 organ. His big band gleefully plays along. Then we wind it back down for an elegant, traditional outro in the last 50 seconds.


This cut also is on Smith’s “Christmas Cookin'” LP, also released in 1964. This LP appears to be out of print but is available digitally. The only differences are that the latter has a much cooler cover and two extra tracks: “Baby It’s Cold Outside” (with Wes Montgomery on guitar) and “Greensleeves” (with Kenny Burrell on guitar and Grady Tate on drums).

Your Christmas music requests in the comments, please.

Please visit our other blog, The Midnight Tracker, for more vintage vinyl, one side at a time.

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2012, Sounds

12 days of Christmas, Day 9

In the e-mail today is a note about NPR Music’s Jingle Jams holiday mix.

They asked 10 stations to suggest 10 Christmas songs each, then put it all together into one playlist. You can stream it here.

Here are 12 of the songs, in the order they appear on the Jingle Jams playlist. The station or program suggesting the song is in parentheses.

“Let It Snow,” Leon Redbone, from “Christmas Island,” 1989. (Folk Alley)

“‘Zat You, Santa Claus” Louis Armstrong, 1953, from “The Stash Christmas Album,” 1985. It’s out of print. (NPR suggests finding it on “Hipster’s Holiday,” a 1989 CD compilation.) (WBGO, Newark, New Jersey; WDUQ, Pittsburgh)

“Last Month Of The Year” the Blind Boys of Alabama, from “Go Tell It On the Mountain,” 2003. (WXPN, Philadelphia)

“Santa Claus, Santa Claus,” James Brown, from “Santa’s Got A Brand New Bag,” 1966. The LP is out of print but all the songs are on “The Complete James Brown Christmas,” a 2-CD set released earlier this year. (KUT, Austin, Texas)

“Back Door Santa,” Clarence Carter, from “Soul Christmas,” 1968. (KUT)

“Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” Darlene Love, from “A Christmas Gift For You From Phil Spector,” 1963. (WXPN)

“Christmas Wrapping,” the Waitresses, 1981, from “A Rock ‘n’ Roll Christmas,” 1994. It’s out of print. (NPR suggests finding it on the “Christmas Wrapping” EP. That also appears to be out of print, but the song is available digitally.) (KUT)

“Greensleeves,” the Vince Guaraldi Trio, from “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” 1965. The buy link is to a 2006 remastered CD release with extra tracks, including an alternate take on this one. (WDUQ)

“Jingle Bells,” Jimmy Smith, from “Christmas ’64,” 1964. Smith’s “Christmas Cookin’,” from the same year, is the same record but with a much cooler cover.  (WBGO)

“Must Be Santa,” Brave Combo, from “It’s Christmas, Man!” 1992. Hard to find, but available from the band or digitally. NPR’s version is from a live performance at KUT. This version is done as a polka.

“Santa Claus Got Stuck in My Chimney,” Ella Fitzgerald, 1950, from “The Stash Christmas Album,” 1985. It’s out of print. (NPR suggests finding it on “Yule Be Miserable,” a 2006 CD compilation) (WDUQ)

“The 12 Days of Christmas,” Harry Belafonte, from “To Wish You A Merry Christmas,” 1962. (NPR Music staff)


Filed under Christmas music, December 2010

I can see for feet

And now, some intermission music.

“Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” Jimmy Smith, from “Christmas Cookin’,” 1964. It’s out of print, but is available digitally.

That’s a cool cover, and this is a pretty groovy jazz instrumental. No lame vocal duet. No breathy, baby-doll female vocals.

I bought Jimmy Smith’s “Christmas ’64” earlier this year, but this is a slightly different record. Also issued in 1964, “Christmas Cookin'” has two cuts not on “Christmas ’64” — this one and “Greensleeves,” which is not available digitally.

And now, clad in cold-weather gear purchased years ago from the Green Bay Packers, I am heading out into the blizzard to shovel a foot of snow from the driveway. It is 25 degrees F, with a wind chill of 8 F. The wind is out of the north at 31 mph, gusting to 38 mph. Visibility is a quarter-mile.

If I return, so will three under the tree.


Filed under December 2009, Sounds

Three under the tree, Day 20

Today brings the first day of a short series within this series.

One night in 1988 or 1989 — I don’t recall which — I taped a radio show from a most remarkable station in Madison, Wisconsin.

WORT, 89.9 FM, was — and is — listener-sponsored, volunteer-run, free-form Back Porch Radio. They spin a staggeringly diverse mix of local bands, indie rock, R&B, soul, dance, jazz, punk, country and performance art. (You can stream it live, too.)

The DJ called himself Willie Wonder, and he played R&B, soul and jazz late at night one night a week on a show called “Cross Currents.” One December night, he was dropping Christmas tunes into the usual mix.


I probably was listening to the show as I drove home from work, started digging it and popped in a tape when I got home. I’ve listened to that tape — named “Willie’s Hot Christmas” — every year since. It’s one of my faves.

In the 20 or so years since, I’ve been collecting the tracks from that tape. I have, or have identified, all but one tune. Last year, I sent the tape to my friend Mike, who ran it through his home studio and burned it to CD for me. That, my friends, is what makes this little series possible.

We’re going to recreate Willie Wonder’s show from that night, from the point I started taping, three songs at a time.


“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” Jimmy Smith, from “Christmas Cookin’,” 1964. It’s out of print, but is available digitally.

This is the first cut from the classic Christmas jazz album by the master of the Hammond B-3 organ.

And now, that one last mystery song …

“The Christmas Song,” unknown jazz sax instrumental. If you know who does this, please drop me a line.

(The mystery cut has gone from radio to tape to CD, and then ripped, so that may explain the sound quality if you find it lacking.)


“Merry Christmas,” Lightnin’ Hopkins, 1953, from “The Stash Christmas Album,” 1985. It’s out of print. Also available on “The Very Best of Lightnin’ Hopkins,” a 2000 CD compilation.

This rough, gritty electric blues cut was recorded on July 29, 1953. That’s Hopkins on vocals and guitar, backed by Donald Cooks on bass and Connie Kroll on drums.

Willie’s Hot Christmas continues tomorrow.

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2008, Sounds

Three under the tree, Vol. 18

Tonight, a bit of a jazz vibe for our three under the tree.

Our first cut is the first cut off that Christmas tape I recorded off the radio in Madison, Wisconsin, 20 or so years ago. (For more of those tunes, circle back to Vol. 7 and Vol. 13.) I came across it quite by accident the other night. The most pleasant surprise of the season so far.

It’s also the first cut from “Christmas Cookin’,” the 1964 Christmas album from Jimmy Smith, the master of the Hammond B-3 organ in a jazz setting. On this tune, his cool Hammond undercuts some big, brassy orchestration. From the liner notes:

“Jimmy Smith presents music for a modern Christmas. The arrangements are as new as tomorrow’s sports car; the songs included are as traditional as the tinseled tree. …

“This fine album will last long after the shining lights and the yuletide tree have been put away. It is not only a seasonal album, designed for listening when the holiday time is at its height, but a definitive collection of familiar material treated in a highly original manner. Music that will stand up any time.”

Indeed, it has. I’ve enjoyed this for years without knowing who did it.


“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” Jimmy Smith, from “Christmas Cookin’,” 1964.

Our second cut brings vibes, and good vibes, from the great Lionel Hampton. This is from another album I seemingly have had forever, a compilation of jazz and blues from the ’30s to the ’50s. If you are a regular visitor to AM, Then FM, this is one that could have come from Ray’s Corner. It was recorded on Oct. 27, 1950. In addition to Hampton on the vibes, this one features Milt Buckner on piano and Sonny Parker on vocals.


“Merry Christmas Baby,” Lionel Hampton and His Orchestra, 1950, from “The Stash Christmas Album,” 1985. Out of print. Stash, in this instance, is the name of the label — Stash Records out of Brooklyn, New York. (Nice cover, eh?)


Some, but not all, of the tunes on “The Stash Christmas Album” also can be found on “Santa Claus Blues,” a CD released in 1988 on Jass Records. Also out of print, though.

Our third cut is from “An Austin Rhythm and Blues Christmas,” another album I seemingly have had forever.

The Kaz Jazz Quartet is a side project of Austin, Texas, sax player Mark Kazanoff, who plays on lots of Texas and New Orleans blues and R&B albums. He’s the sax player for Marcia Ball, the long, tall R&B pianist and singer who’s one of our faves. The jazz quartet has been together since 1985, so this must have been one of its first cuts.


“The Christmas Song,” the Kaz Jazz Quartet, from “An Austin Rhythm and Blues Christmas,” 1986.

Enjoy. More to come.

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2007, Sounds