Jimmy Smith was not the first jazz musician to play the electri organ, but after he became a major figure in the mid-'50s, he did more than anyone else to popularize the instrument. However, with the arrival of other electric keyboards in the late '60s, the organ and its jazz practitioners went out of fashion.
Smith has spent the past few years in Los Angeles operating a nightclub and making a couple of forgettable albums. As was evident Saturday night at the Cellar Door, he is now trying for a comeback.
There was nothing new in Smith's playing, but that was excusable, since he can still make interesting music. Harmonically, he is more sophisticated than often been acknowledged, and he has retained his total command of the instrument, though he now is playing bass lines with his left hand rather than with foot pedals.
Smith's music was, as always, blues-drenched, both in bona fide blues like "The Sermon" and in pop tunes like "Quiet Nights" and "Who Can I Turn To?" This was also true of his guitarist, the veteran Ray Crawford. Drummer Joe Brancato accompanied the pair adequately though unspectacularly.
Tim Eyermann and the East Coast Offering opened for Smith, and this D.C. Jazz-rock quartet continues to grow in musical depth while keeping the polish they have always had.