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Pine Grill Reunion… it’s time!

An absolutely perfect WNY summer’s day with a light cool breeze taking the edge off of the stinging August sun… an Olmsted park immaculately groomed… vendors hocking everything from Jerked Chicken to Catfish filet, and the incomparable Dr. Lonnie Smith on stage with his trio. It’s got to be Pine Grill Reunion time!
The man under the turban that was sitting behind the organ had me totally mesmerized on a recent afternoon, and I was willfully under his spell. A clear focus with such an authentic, sympathetic smile; it was as if he played the breeze, shrugging his shoulders to the swaying trees and returning smiles that were given freely to him by those in the front row. Although I didn’t know the titles to any of his tunes, they transported me away from mother earth – you know… that transcendent quality we all need from time to time to carry us away. This was a true celestial artist I thought, and his mystical message traveled far and wide through the park and beyond.
Dr. Lonnie Smith I said to myself, “How could I have not heard of this genius B4?” This is one of the men credited with the innovation of a genre – Acid Jazz, a true Soul Jazz master. If the noodlings of MMW and Soulive are the fruit, then the deep down and dirty grooves of Dr. Lonnie Smith are the root! To boot, this gentleman is from our own Beau Fleuve!
Dr. Lonnie Smith grew up in Lackawanna. When he realized that he had music running through his veins, he went to Art Kubera’s music store and told him that if he only had an instrument, he knew that he could make a living at playing music. Art looked in his backroom and saw the Hammond B3 organ with Leslie speaker sitting there and said to the doctor that if he could move the 450-pound beast out of the shop, then he could have it. The rest is history.
When asked about the “doctor” tag or why he wears a turban at his performances, Lonnie replies, “For no particular reason.”
Dr. Lonnie Smith has played with everyone from George Benson to Grover Washington Jr. to Dionne Warwick. He recorded some amazing sides with the Blue Note label in the 60’s that are well worth searching after with mainstays like Melvin Sparks in his band. What a treat it was to have him back home with us, if only for this fine afternoon.
Pine Grill Reunion Part II is this upcoming Sunday, August 10th from 2pm – 10pm at Martin Luther King Park, featuring local jazz acts this time around. Check it out!
(If you missed it in past years…)

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