Jimmy Smith with Stanley Turrentine
Prayer Meetin'
(Blue Note 84164)

Prayer Meetin' is one of the mellowest albums that I consider to be Great, for whatever reason. It's not that only intense music can be great, or that mellow music is somehow less "essential" or something – rather, I think it's just that it's easier for mellow albums to be written off as merely "pleasant," when sometimes they are the best possible thing.

On this 1963 session, Jimmy Smith and Stanley Turrentine team up for a slow simmer of groove, heavy on the chitlins. I have no idea what I mean by that, but seeing as it came off much more offensively than I intended, I think I'll be reborn into a new paragraph about now.

Smith and T are accompanied by Quentin Warren on guitar, Sam Jones on bass, and Donald Bailey on drums. Competent group, not trying to change the world. Neither Jimmy nor Stanley tear the universe apart in their solos, but there is something exceedingly special about this partnership that makes almost everything they ever did together meritorious.

You half-expect a gospel tinge to the album based on its title, but it's more of a Sunday afternoon in a barbecue shack, with much more shimmy and sway than you can really get away with in church. Mostly blues walks as only Jimmy Smith can serve 'em up,

Prayer Meetin' is like a big ol' pot of red beans and rice on the back burner. You see the steam, you smell the aroma, and your mouth starts to water so much that you can swear you taste it, and you ultimately believe you've already eaten a big bowlful.

Did that make any sense whatsoever? I kind of got lost there for a minute thinking about food. My point, if in fact I have one, is that the album just slow-burns in anticipation, perfectly paced to finally hit a full-on boil around track 5, "Red Top," which Jimmy and T both lay into like a college girl who is finally starting to get really good at sex.

What the hell was that supposed to mean? Who the hell knows. I never should have bought that bag of metaphors at the flea market. Anyway, the simmer hits a boil and then you're cooking with gas. No real climax to the album (though Jimmy Smith's B-3 solo on "Picknickin'" is pretty awe-inspiring), just a real slow burn.

Cool, funky, earthy, and as ecstatic as you can possibly be while simply strolling. This is no tent revival meeting at all, this is the jukebox at God's best soul food restaurant in heaven.

Review by El Churro