Born: December 28, 1940 Primary Instrument: Organ, Hammond B3
b. Lonnie Liston Smith, Jr., 28th December, 1940 in Richmond, Virginia, U.S.A.
Lonnie Liston Smith is somethimes confused with organist Dr. Lonnie Smith, keyboardist / pianist.
Lonnie Liston Smith started out playing straight-ahead acoustic jazz before becoming better known for embracing fusion, crossover, soul and funk with his 1970's band the Cosmic Echoes.
Smith was born in Richmond, Virginia, but it was in New York that Smith started getting a lot of work as a jazz pianist in the 1960's.
Greatly influenced by McCoy Tyner but quite distinctive himself, Smith played acoustic piano as a sideman for Pharoah Sanders, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Betty Carter and Gato Barbieri but turned to fusion when Miles Davis hired him as an electric keyboardist in the early 1970's.
By 1973, Smith was ready to lead a band of his own and formed the Cosmic Echoes with his brother, singer Donald Smith.
The improviser made his recording debut as a leader with 1973's 'Astral Traveling' and continued to fare well in the fusion / crossover appeal with such offerings as 1974's 'Cosmic Funk' and 1975's 'Expansions'.
The atmospheric fusion, crossover, soul and funk that Smith played on his Cosmic Echoes dates of the 1970's had a very spiritual feeling.
If anyone bridged the gap between John Coltrane and Earth, Wind & Fire, it was Smith.
He moved from RCA to Columbia with 1978's 'Loveland', and the 1980's found Smith recording for Doctor Jazz.
In 1986, Smith surprised his followers with 'Make Someone Happy', an excellent acoustic trio date that found him returning to straight-ahead post-bop and interpreting standards.
Unfortunately, the early 1990's weren't great years for Smith, who recorded some radio-oriented, formulaic NAC sessions that left much to be desired creatively.
Smith returned to a Cosmic Echoes-type sound on 1998's 'Transformation', which reunited him with his brother Donald.