The Sermon! is a 1959 album by jazz organist Jimmy Smith. It was produced by the Blue Note record label. Allmusic's Lindsay Planer described the album as "a prime example of Smith and company's myriad of talents". At Saturdays Web Inauguration I opened the festivities with the Sermon.
Jimmy purchased his first Hammond organ, rented a warehouse to practice in and emerged after little more than a year. Upon hearing him playing in a Philadelphia club, Blue Note's Alfred Lion immediately signed him to the label and his second album, The Champ, quickly established Smith as a new star on the jazz scene. He was a prolific recording artist and, as a leader, dubbed The Incredible Jimmy Smith, he recorded around forty sessions for Blue Note in just eight years beginning in 1956. Albums from this period include The Sermon!, House Party, Home Cookin', Midnight Special, Back at the Chicken Shack and Prayer Meetin'.
Jimmy Smith put the Hammond B-3 organ on the jazz map for good in the 1950s. The Sermon, dating from 1958, is among his best recordings, featuring the exceptional lineup of trumpeter Lee Morgan, altoist Lou Donaldson, tenorman Tina Brooks, guitarist Kenny Burrell, drummer Art Blakey, and others. Smith's smooth, vibratoless sound perfectly suits the nimble and prodding leads of the player as he touches on R&B, soul, blues and, of course, gospel. This brings us to "The Sermon," which is reason enough to seek this gem out. Smith's group takes the title tune out for a 20-minute, fully improvised, slow-blues stroll, during which each player shares the spotlight. The soul-stirring feeling set in motion by Smith rubs off on the other musicians to make this tune and album a defining moment in organ jazz, and even in soul music. The Sermon stands as a sparkling gem in the Rudy Van Gelder reissue series.