Dr. Lonnie Smith was on the 2010 Soul'd Out Festival poster for a damn good reason. He certainly spoke through his music and acted as soul ambassador on Portland this quiet April 20th evening. The man brought a cane on stage, but it was hard to believe it wasn't a wizard's staff as the red-hot trio progressed through the many nuances of soul's core influences. Although he was sitting right at center stage, the good doctor certainly drove us around with some super-powered keyboard work. Along with dinner, there were some mighty generous helpings of jazz, funk and gospel thrown together just about as perfect as things could be.
Dr. Smith would go out on a funky keyboard trip but never so far out that he wasn't going to check to make sure everyone wasn't paying close attention. Pausing between the interludes it was fun to listen him touch bases with everyone. He certainly brought his firm grasp of all these types of music to us. When he felt like it, the cadence certainly got loose with a strong emphasis on the funky. Excellent, yet far from pretentious, at one point Dr. Smith got down under his keyboards and started banging out the beat on the foot pedals with his hands. Since there was no stand up or electric bass, this made things pretty clear exactly where all that low-end was coming from and precisely exactly who was bringing it to us. Again I'd like to again emphasize, very funky.
Far from being one-dimensional, funk wasn't the only theme that was touched upon. The Blue Note veteran delivered a show that that didn't hesitate in its attempt to move the willing, even if the audience felt a bit subdued. A few times, an upbeat gospel organ solo tore through the room like a rowdy, exciting quake. Dancing would almost break out as things reached a rolling boil and then the reigns were pulled back to a gentle simmer once more. There were a moments though where it simply did not seem even remotely proper to keep still. A perfect balance was struck with flourishes of placid and beautiful classical jazz instrumentals.
These shows made for quite an evening. Wherever things went, we were certainly in the presence of master musical architect. During his visit, Dr. Smith ever-so-precisely, never failed to kept his finger right on the flow of the music while simultaneously, keeping his listeners right there with him and illuminating what soul music really is.