Dr. Lonnie Smith: Eleanor Rigby
Dr. Lonnie Smith (organ)
Turning Point (Blue Note 11423)
Julian Priester (trombone), Melvin Sparks (guitar).
Composed by Lennon/McCartney.
Recorded: Englewood Cliffs, NJ, January 2, 1969
Rating: 85/100 (learn more)
When dipping into the Beatles bag, "Eleanor Rigby" might be the tune that jazzers grab onto most, and for good reason. It's one of their most unforgettable melodies, and its simple, minor harmony can be vamped, lending itself as easily to cerebral modal exploration as to blues-inflected blowing. Lonnie Smith chooses Option #2, transforming Paul McCartney's solemn tale of the lonely Ms. Rigby and desolate Father McKenzie into a soul-jazz boogaloo jam. The mysterious ambiance created by the intro's billowing trills carries over into Smith's serpentine organ melody, which slithers around punctuated horn interjections. After two verses, Muhammad kicks in his famous boogaloo beat, and young Maupin steps up with an economical, bluesy chorus—so laid-back he sounds like he's in slow-motion! Smith plays the blues with conviction, unfurling an endless supply of licks atop Sparks's wildly enthusiastic comping.
Reviewer: Matt Leskovic