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The world needs another Jimmy Smith album like John Tesh needs a bigger head. But Angel Eyes (subtitled Ballads and Slow Jams for that crossover appeal) isn’t another chicken-shack scorcher by the prolific organ man. By concentrating on ballads and with minimal accompaniment, Smith gets to show that his typically chomping chops can handle gentler bites. For even more crossover appeal, Smith is joined by more young lions than a Christian in the Coliseum; trumpeter Roy Hargrove, bassist Christian McBride, guitarist Mark Whitfield, trumpeter Nicholas Payton, and drummer Gregory Hutchinson all make sumptuous contributions to Angel Eyes. The duet between Smith and Hargrove on “You Better Go Now” is especially revealing, since Hargrove’s playing rarely slows below supersonic on his own recordings. Oliver Nelson’s “Stolen Moments” is already a beautiful track, and in the sextet’s hands it’s a moment you want to steal again and again; the song is so sublime you’re hardly aware of the band’s handoffs. The two tracks Smith plays solo, “Bess, Oh Where’s My Bess” and “What a Wonderful World” are especially warm and inviting: The Hammond’s infinite sustain and watery tone make the instrument perfectly suited to such swayers, permitting gentle smearing between notes and, therefore, gentle smearing of lipstick.

—Christopher Porter