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Dr. Lonnie Smith

Dr. Lonnie Smith

Hammond B3 organ

Dr. Lonnie Smith is an unparalleled musician, composer, performer and recording artist. An authentic master and guru of the Hammond B-3 organ for over five decades, he has been featured on over seventy albums, and has recorded and performed with some of the greatest jazz, blues, and R&B giants in the industry. Consequently, he has often been hailed as a “Legend,” a “Living Musical Icon,” and as the most creative jazz organist by a slew of music publications.

Smith’s first gigs were at Buffalo’s hottest jazz club, the Pine Grill, where he rapidly garnered the attention of folks like Jack McDuff, Lou Donaldson, George Benson, and the booking agent Jimmy Boyd. George Benson was looking for an organist for his quartet and enlisted Smith. The group soon relocated to New York City, where they quickly established a reputation as innovators in Harlem clubs and throughout the area. After appearing on several Benson albums, Smith went on to make his first recording as a leader, Finger Lickin’ Good, for Columbia Records in 1966. Shortly thereafter, Smith was scooped up to record by saxophonist Lou Donaldson, for whom Smith would appear on several epic Blue Note LPs including Alligator Boogaloo.

Since leaving the Blue Note stable in the ‘70s, Smith has recorded for a slew of record labels, including Kudu, Groove Merchant, T.K., Scufflin’, Criss Cross, and Palmetto, ascending the charts many times. In 2012, Smith launched his own record label Pilgrimage Inc., and in 2015, re-signed with the iconic Blue Note Records label.

Many awards have followed since 1969, when Downbeat magazine named Smith “Top Organist” of the year. From 2003-2014 he was awarded “Organist/Keyboardist of the Year” by the Jazz Journalist Association. The Buffalo Music Hall of Fame and Jazz Organ Fellowship have also inducted Smith, and in 2015 he received the Village Music Legends Award. He received the NEA Jazz Masters Award, the highest honor in jazz, on April 3, 2017.