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  Lonnie Liston Smith
 

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Click below for a Lonnie Liston Smith sample:

Sunburst

Cosmic Funk

Sunset

  
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The spacier, spiritual side of fusion was Lonnie Liston Smith's domain and he was a trendsetter in the genre.  His mid 70s recordings with the Cosmic Echoes are cornerstones of the scene, and he kept up the quality on titles issued under his own name later in the decade.  Some of his 80s efforts reflected a tendency towards new age philosophy, but again, new was the culmination of many of the ideas that fired his music.

Smith received his education in cosmic jazz from Pharoah Sanders, who selected Smith as his keyboardist during his most fertile period of creativity.  Smith is featured on the classic albums Karma, Thembi and Summun Bukmun Umyun.    He also recorded with the similarly high-minded Leon Thomas and Gato Barbieri.

By 1973 he had demonstrated sufficient talent to be signed directly to Flying Dutchman, Bob Thiele's home for heady jazz.  Astral Traveling paired him with other members of Sanders' band, like Cecil McBee and Mtume.

Perhaps inspired by Herbie Hancock's work with the Headhunters, Smith began to emphasize funkier textures on his albums, starting with Cosmic Funk.  This LP saw the debut of the Cosmic Echoes: Donald Smith (vocals, piano, flute), Art Gore (drums), Al Anderson (bass), George Barron (sax), and Lawrence Killian (percussion and conga).  The album's slant towards soul flavors would remain a constant through the end of the decade, even though they'd always do standards like "Footprints" and "Naima."

Smith's shining moment came in 1975, when Expansions was released.   Fired by the title song, a rolling piece of jazz-funk that became a club classic, the album is generally considered to be his strongest outing.

In 1978, Smith moved to Columbia for some LPs that added disco into his mix.  "Sunburst" was another slice of dancefloor fusion that dented the charts.

Through the 80s and 90s, Smith returned to traditional jazz playing, but he'll always be remembered for his pioneering danceable jazz of the mid 70s.  His impact is particularly evident in London, where artists like LTJ Bukem cite him as a major influence.

Lonnie Liston Smith's Deepest Grooves

Astral Traveling (Flying Dutchman, 1973)
Similiar to Pharoah Sanders material.  Tracks include "Let Us Go Into the House of the Lord," "In Search of Truth," and "Rejuvenation."

Cosmic Funk (Flying Dutchman, 1974)

Expansions (Flying Dutchman, 1975)
An essential jazz-funk release.  Massive dance cuts sit next to the mellower spacy tracks on side 2.  With "Voodoo Woman," "Peace" and "Summer Days."

Visions of a New World (Flying Dutchman, 1976)
The Cosmic Echoes build upon the momentum of Expansions with this concept album about harmony and love.  Can't you just see the new age vibes creeping in?

Reflections of a Golden Dream (RCA, 1976)

Live (RCA, 1977)
Put in front of a live audience, Smith and company cut loose with a forcefulness not always apparent on their studio dates.

Reniassance (RCA, 1977)

Exotic Mysteries (Columbia, 1978)

Loveland (Columbia, 1978)

A Song for the Children (Columbia, 1979)

Love Is the Answer (Columbia, 1980)

Dreams of Tomorrow (Doctor Jazz, 1983)

Silhouettes (Doctor Jazz, 1984)

Rejuvenation (Doctor Jazz, 1986)

Make Someone Happy (Doctor Jazz, 1989)

Explorations - The Columbia Years (Sony, 2002)
Welcome reissue of Smith's four Columbia albums, most of which had never been released on CD.  During this era, Smith was more interested in pursuing a soul-styled fusion than the strident work of the Flying Dutchman years, but he continued to come up with quality material.  "Love Is The Answer," "Loveland," "Mystical Dreamer" and "Floating Through Space" are among the many highlights of this double disc. 

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