Friday, 9 January 2009
Dr. Lonnie Smith, born July 3, 1942 in Lackawanna, New York is a jazz musician, recognized as a player of both the Hammond B3 organ and piano. He has been performing for over five decades and many consider him as the world's top jazz organist. Lonnie was born into a family with a vocal group and radio program. Smith says that his mother was a major influence on him musically, as she introduced him to gospel, classical, and jazz music. He was part of several vocal ensembles in the 1950s, including the Teen Kings. Art Kubera, the owner of a local music store, gave Smith his first organ, a Hammond B3. His affinity for R&B melded with his own personal style, and he quickly became a local legend. He moved to New York City, where he met George Benson, the guitarist for Jack McDuff's band. Benson and Smith connected on a personal level, and the two formed the George Benson Quartet featuring Lonnie Smith, in 1966. After recording several albums with Benson, Smith became a solo recording artist and developed a career that has produced over 30 albums under his own name. Several legendary jazz artists have joined Smith on his albums, including Lee Morgan, David "Fat Head" Newman, King Curtis, Blue Mitchell, and Joe Lovano among others. Smith has performed at several prominent jazz festivals with artists including Grover Washington, Jr., Ron Carter, Dizzy Gillespie, Lou Donaldson and Ron Holloway. He has also played with musicians outside of jazz, such as Dionne Warwick, Gladys Knight, Etta James, Joan Cartwright, and Esther Phillips.