The Incredible Jimmy Smith - Back at the Chicken Shack (1963), 4/10

Inoffensive standard bop with Smith’s organ thrown on top. There is nothing strikingly poor on this record but nothing remotely interesting either. Something likely heard as ambient noise as even musically ignorant business owners likely hear how ridiculously generic it sounds. Nothing to be gleaned from its detail, nothing to be absorbed apart from innocuous and unobtrusive ambiance. Of course, ambiance has its place and there is nothing wrong with atmospheric jazz, but any active listener will immediately find very little to focus on apart from Smith and Turrentine’s leading passages that also unfortunately have a hollow melodic quality compared to their contemporaries. Great jazz records typically tell a story but here we are left wondering what the inspiration for this set of songs could possibly be, sounding surprisingly stale right from the start. As far as utterly safe soulful jazz goes it is a decent listen and perhaps deserves some recognition for its tight delivery, but it is hard to recommend such an overly tired experience. When Turrentine steals the show, during “When I Grow Too Old to Dream”, for example, things briefly flirt with interesting melody before retreating into an almost overly precise pocket of soul. Passages of the closer "Messy Bessie" also offer brief moments of interest through Burrell's playing. There is perhaps a reason this record has been lost in the archives of jazz history, as it has been outperformed too many times since, while still being late to the game in the early to mid-sixties. Back at the Chicken Shack can fill a smoky barroom but without pricking up any ears in interest.