From the opening track, “Sagg Shootin’ His Arrow”, with its Arthur Adams wah-wah-laden guitar, you just know Jimmy Smith’s Root Down is going to be as funky as it gets. Some have said that Jimmy Smith did for the Hammond B-3 what Charlie Christian did for the guitar. While this may be true for Smith’s role in bringing the instrument to a wider audience, after listening to Root Down a number of times, you might find yourself thinking that Eddie Hazel would be just as accurate a parallel.
Recorded live in Los Angeles at the Bombay Bicycle Club in February, 1972, Root Down is a distinct departure from the big band dates Smith had previously done for Verve. It’s an album that’s less restrained and more enthusiastic than some of his laid-back projects recorded as a Blue Note artist.
Reissued and remastered in 2000 as part of Verve’s By Request series — quite possibly due to the attention garnered from the sample the Beastie Boys used on their 1994 release Ill Communication — Root Down contains a number of note worthy gems, There’s a 12-minute-plus, unedited version of the title track, a gritty, bluesy rendition of the Erskine Hawkins-penned classic “After Hours,’ and a memorable go at Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together.”
In addition to Smiths’ masterful touch on the B-3, Root features Wilton Felder on bass and Paul Humphrey on drums (both would go on to work with Steely Dan), as well as Arthur Adams on guitar, Buck Clarke on percussion and Steve Williams on harmonica.
Jimmy Smith has a number of four- and five-star recordings in his catalog, but Root Down is the one, in my opinion, that cemented him as the father of the Funk/Soul Jazz Sound.
- Mark Rini, Host of Soul Station, Tuesdays, 9-11 PM