Arts | Performing Arts | Music
NEA Jazz Master — Dr. Lonnie Smith
1111 SW Broadway
Feb. 23, 2018, 9:30 p.m.
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 a virtual “Who’s Who” 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. Jazz Times magazine describes him as “a riddle wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a turban!” Always ahead of the curve, it is no surprise Dr. Smith’s fan-base is truly worldwide.
Born in Buffalo, New York, Lonnie was blessed with the gift of music. Through his mother, he was immersed in gospel, blues, and jazz at an early age. In his teens, he sang in several vocal groups including his own–the Supremes–formed long before Motown’s eventual iconic act of the same name. Lonnie also played trumpet and other instruments at school and was a featured soloist. In the late ‘50s– with the encouragement of Art Kubera, who owned a local music store that he would visit daily–young Lonnie was given the opportunity to learn how to play a Hammond organ. By completely immersing himself in the records of organists such as Wild Bill Davis, Bill Doggett, and Jimmy Smith, as well as paying rapt attention to the church organ, a young Lonnie began to find his musical voice. “Even though I didn’t know how I was able to play right from the beginning,” Dr. Smith reflects. “I learned how to work the stops and that was it. It’s a passion for me, so everything else came naturally.” Because of Mr. Kubera’s kindness, Dr. Lonnie often refers to Art as his “angel.”
Downbeat magazine named Dr. Lonnie Smith “Top Organist” of the year. 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 Dr. Lonnie, and in 2015 he received the Village Music Legends Award. He is scheduled to receive the NEA Jazz Masters Award, the highest honor in jazz, on April 3, 2017.