Legendary Organist Made the B3 His Own, Popularized Soul-Jazz
Jazz organist Jimmy Smith has died. According to his longtime label, Blue Note Records, Smith passed away Tuesday of natural causes at his Scottsdale, AZ home. He was 79.

Smith enjoyed a long and storied career, making his mark on jazz with his Hammond B3 organ, a sound he made his own through dozens of trio recordings for Blue Note through the ’50s and ’60s.

Born December 8, 1925 in Norristown, PA, Smith learned piano from his parents before taking up the organ in 1951. He formed his first trio in 1953, gigging around the Philadelphia area. By 1956, he’d taken his act to New York, where Blue Note co-founders Francis Wolff and Alfred Lion heard him and signed him up.

Smith’s classic Blue Note recordings include Home Cookin’, The Sermon, Midnight Special, Prayer Meetin’ and Back at the Chicken Shack.

Later, Smith recorded for Verve, cutting albums including Organ Grinder Swing, Got My Mojo Workin’ and Root Down in the late ’60s and early ’70s. In 1986, current Blue Note head Bruce Lundvall and producer Michael Cuscuna brought Smith back into the studio to record Go for Whacha’ Know.

Smith’s final session for Blue Note were held in the late 1990s, when he recorded The Master and The Master II with guitarist Kenny Burrell.