Organist Jimmy Smith’s Blue Note and Verve back-catalog is the stuff of legend, and the man plays as well on Dot Com Blues as he ever has. But this session is more than another Jimmy Smith album. At times you wonder where Jimmy is among all the accompanying star power, but if you listen, he is still there, rubbing the honeyed keys as B.B. King, Etta James, Dr. John, and Keb Mo wail and work it. Smith shows he is still the master of the blueswalk in “8 Counts for Rita,” “C.C. Rider,” “Tuition Blues,” and the title track, as well as on a sumptuously slow version of “Mood Indigo.” Here, Smith solos with gritty abandon in a small-group setting with such notables as guitarist Russell Malone, drummer Harvey Mason, and percussionist Lenny Castro. Smith is more often felt than heard elsewhere, though, and maybe that is understandable when Etta James lets rips on a wobbly version of “I Just Wanna Make Love to You.” The opening “Only in It for the Money” is better balanced, perhaps because Dr. John understands the value of less-is-more and, as a fellow keyboardist, doesn’t want to step on Smith’s celebrated toes. Finally, B.B. King helps make “Three O’Clock Blues” a rocking blowout that transports the listener back to some rock & blues tent meeting circa 1956. Dot Com Blues proves that Jimmy Smith can still raise the rug and do what he does best, star power in attendance or not.
The ’90s lounge revival and the hubbub surrounding acid jazz would seem ideal reasons for veteran jazz organist Jimmy Smith to pull rank and power up his Hammond B-3 for the sort of greasy grooves and ur-funk riffs that remain the blueprint. Instead, Smith pulls a smarter move: subtitled “Ballads & Slow Jams,” the set finds him teaming with younger labelmates Roy Hargrove, Nicholas Payton, Mark Whitfield, and Christian McBride and downshifting into a program of ballads culled from jazz and classic- pop perennials. From Oliver Nelson’s “Stolen Moments” and Neal Hefti’s “Lil’ Darlin'” to slices of Mancini, Gershwin, and Matt Dennis’s title song (forever associated with Sinatra), a slow jam by any other name translates to make-out music–in this case, of the most elegant, highly satisfying order.