Johnny “Hammond” Smith The Stinger (Prestige 1965)

Although the quirky cover suggests otherwise, The Stinger is not the soundtrack to a movie about the cousin of Spiderman. On the contrary, it’s a bluesy and varied mid-career session of organist Johnny “Hammond” Smith. One of his best recordings on the Prestige label.

Johnny "Hammond" Smith - The Stinger


Johnny “Hammond” Smith (organ), Houston Person (tenor saxophone A1, B1 & B3), Earl Edwards (tenor saxophone A1-3, B2), Floyd Smith (guitar), John Harris (drums)


on May 7, 1965 at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey


as PR 7408 in 1965

Track listing

Side A:
The Stinger
There Is No Greater Love
Brother John
Side B:
Cleopatra And The African Knight
You Don’t Know What Love Is
Benny’s Diggin’

Smith came up shortly after organist Jimmy Smith’s rise to prominence in 1956 and evolved into a very prolific recording artist for Prestige. A blues-drenched player with an articulate, pianistic style, Johnny “Hammond” Smith’s level was way above the norm. After a stint with Riverside in 1963, Smith switched back to the soul jazz roster of Prestige, stressing a more backbeat-heavy, funky style in the late sixties. (Thereafter, Smith recorded extensively for CTI imprint Kudu) The Stinger marked Smith’s return to Bob Weinstock’s Prestige label.

It bears the carefree atmopshere of the after hours joint. At the same time, Smith demonstrates an exceptional ability to master diverse, intricate repertoire. Benny’s Diggin’, for instance, is an uptempo hard bop mover that would’ve sit well on an early sixties Blue Note album. Cleopatra And The Black Knight combinates a lilting bossa rhythm with an eastern-flavored theme. Smith’s solo intensifies the already considerable swing.

Smith’s uncluttered storytelling comes through equally well in ballads as in funky tunes. The Stinger, driven by a shufflin’, biting drum beat and an archetypical blues guitar line, is a fiery, down-home cooker. Brother Ray, a “Hammond” Smith tribute to Ray Charles, blends a suave horn arrangement with hard swing. It’s perfect foil for tenor saxophonist Houston Person’s muscular style. It also is ample proof that Johnny “Hammond” Smith simply was one of the finest organists around.

About the spotify link below: The Stinger is the second part of this Johnny “Hammond” Smith twofer.

Gene Ammons Angel Eyes (Prestige 1965)

Tenor saxophonist Gene Ammons was incarcerated on drugs charges from 1958-1960 and 1962-1969. As record companies often did when one of their leading artists was absent, Prestige released a series of albums throughout the sixties to keep the musician in the picture. Angel Eyes, culled from two earlier sessions, is such an album. Arguably because of the circumstances, it lacks a consistent feel and at times sounds run-of-the-mill.

Gene Ammons Angel Eyes


Gene Ammons (tenor saxophone), Frank Wess (tenor saxophone, flute A1, A2, B1, B2), Mal Waldron (piano A3, B3), Johnny “Hammond” Smith (organ A1, A2, B1, B2), Wendell Marshall (bass, A3, B3), Doug Watkins (bass A1, A2, B1, B2), Ed Thigpen (drums A3, B3), Art Taylor (drums A1, A2, B1, B2)


on June 17, 1960 and September 5, 1962


as PR 7369

Track listing

Side A:
Gettin’ Around
Blue Room
You Go To My Head
Side B:
Angel Eyes
Water Jug
It’s The Talk Of The Town

At these particular sessions from 1960 and 1962, a wild bunch of seven musicians earned their day’s pay. Among them is Frank Wess, whose flute arrangements seem out of place and whose considerable talents have been put to better use in Prestige’s catalogue.

Tenor great Gene Ammons is central to proceedings that almost offer a retrospective to the swing era, a feeling sufficiently enhanced by organ player Johnny ‘Hammond’ Smith, whose playing might be modern here and there, but whose open registered organ sound dates back to the days when Jimmy Smith was just a highschool kid.

High point on this album is the ballad artistry of Ammons, who lends his own particular flavor to the style of such luminaries as Coleman Hawkins and Ben Webster. That slow, lenghty workout on Angel eyes and smoky stuff on the two non-organ cuts from 1962’s session just might make you forget the leaky faucet of fate, if just for a while.