The intoxicating, sweaty atmosphere of The Bombay Bicycle Club in Los Angeles on the evening of February 8, 1972 is faultlessly trapped forever on this excellent live release by Hammond B3 maestro Jimmy Smith. Energised by the young street-wise musicians in his new line-up and inspired to investigate new directions in groove-saturated jazz, Smith unwittingly carved out this seminal funk masterpiece. Having built a pioneering career playing lightly simmering but increasingly safe soul-jazz, Root Down breaks out from his back-catalog as a thrilling anomaly.
Blistering solos punctuate the propulsive grooves powered by a no-nonsense rhythm section and the slinky, contoured guitar work of Arthur Adams (who stars on the blues-jam ‘After Hours’). Covers of ‘Let’s Stay Together’ and ‘For Everyone Under The Sun’ are enjoyable slow-burning vehicles that mainly colour within the lines, but it is the combustible Jimmy Smith originals that launches Root Down into warp-drive. The remastered edition of this album features a relaxed, humorous introduction by Smith (which was not included on the original), and greatly-extended versions of the key tracks ‘Sagg Shootin’ His Arrow’, ‘Root Down (And Get It)’ and ‘Slow Down Sagg’ (Jimmy Smith’s shorthand for Sagittarian). Smith frequently injects his questing solos with alien-sounding eastern European scales helping these tunes burn with excitement and invention not often heard on his earlier recordings. The alternate take of ‘Root Down (And Get It)’ which closes the remastered edition is like an lost episode of ‘Jimmy Smith Goes To Outer-Space’, so faithfully does his mind-warping solo describe his fantastical adventures on a strobing UFO steered by jive-talking funky martians and being shuttled off into infinity. Mesmerising stuff.