Dr. Lonnie Smith, Evolution (Blue Note)
The venerable organist’s doctorate is a figment, but his musicianship and ability to mold combos of any size into formidable units are even more real than when he moved from piano to organ in the 1950s. In this return to the Blue Note label after nearly half a century, Smith gives monumental trio performances of Thelonious Monk’s “Straight No Chaser” and Richard Rodgers’s “My Favorite Things.” In septet and sextet collaborations with his former saxophone sideman Joe Lovano, he tears it up in “Afrodesia” and his composition “For Heaven’s Sake.” Among the other guest artists in this inspired album are pianist Robert Glasper, saxophonist-flutist John Ellis, drummer Jonathan Blake and the impressive young trumpeters Maurice Brown and Keyon Harold. It’s an intergenerational fiesta. The good “doctor” is in top form, as funky and—when the funk subsides a bit—as subtle as ever.