Dr. Lonnie Smith Trio / Ike Stubblefield Trio @ Antone’s (9.29.17)
Rarely does the opportunity arise when a living legend makes their way through our fair city. Even rarer when 2 living legends happen to share the bill. Rarer still is the unlikely scenario where both legends are vastly proficient on the same instrument…in this case the Hammond B3 Organ. This perfect storm of unfathomable talent and unrivaled musical accomplishment took the stage at Antone’s on Friday night with Dr. Lonnie Smith and Ike Stubblefield showing in no uncertain terms why they are considered some of the best ever. Follow the jump for more on the show.
Opening the evening was Ike Stubblefield with his own bluesy take on the Hammond. Stubblefield’s history is well known in blues and motown circles, with 50+ years under his belt backing musicians like Al Green, Tina Turner, and the late BB King, though most recently as a member of the Derek Trucks band. With such variety in his chops, his style is equally diverse, going seamlessly from heavy Chicago Blues, to Mexico City ala Esquivel, to some Brazilian samba influence featuring an up-tempo back beat. Regardless of the style oozing from the pipes of the organ, throughout the show he had the audience positively grooving.
His bandmates for the evening were apparently added last minute, but there was no disconnection between the trio. It felt a bit like a true improv blues set, with the band leader conducting with simply a raised hand and a wayward glance, beckoning his mates to fill in, pop into a solo, or simmer down as the organ took billowed to it’s potential. It was a real treat to see a master at work with such calm command of his instrument. It felt so effortless and simple.
After a short break the audience hit the bar for a second round of cocktails, before Jay Trachtenburg of KUTX Sunday Morning Jazz introduced the second legend of the evening, the Dr. Lonnie Smith Trio. What Stubblefield brought to the Hammond B3 with his bluesy approach, Dr. Smith is full on mastery of jazz. Similar to his counterpart, Dr. Smith is no stranger to the music scene with over 50 years himself and over 70 records to his name including his most well know releases, Think! andAlligator Boogalooamongst others as a member the esteemed Blue Note Recordsentourage. Donning a black turban and spindly white beard, the good doctor is a sight to behold. He looks the part of a preacher and his message is the organ. In many ways, his style of play emanates from the gospel realm, with warm washes of extended notes that billow to the rafters. It’s a sound that wraps you up like a blanket and brings comfort to the listener. After you find that safe space, Dr. Smith kicks into an Acid Jazz break that flips the whole script. His infectious boyish grin and eyebrows raised to see if everyone was still with him out there in the audience. We were all just along for the ride.
Watching the audience during the performance was almost as entertaining as the show. Beyond the pulsating groove, it seemed as if many in attendance were starstruck being in the presence of such a living legend in the Doctor. Cell phone cameras (and even an ipad or two, smh) were everywhere as those devices wielding guests seemed to share or desire a way hold on to this piece of music history happening right before their eyes. Like good jazz though, it can’t be captured to the same effect besides the present moment.
This was the first venture to the new Antone’s location for tjis reviewer (now of E. 5th street since early 2016) and with its lounge-like vibe, with candles on cocktail tables, there was an air of cool that seemed to emerge from the venue. Recently there’s not much jazz of note that comes through our town with the exception of the long time consistently impressive Elephant Room bookings, but it was certainly a coup for Antone’s and KUTX to pull together this legendary bill on Friday. If you get the chance to see either of these performers in your town, do yourself a favor and buy a ticket. If you can see both, be prepared to be overwhelmed by history in the making.
All sketches captured during the show by Jon Wagner.