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Lonnie Liston Smith

When Lonnie Liston Smith made the transition from sideman to leader in 1973, it was the beginning of a fusion/crossover/post-bop band he dubbed Lonnie Liston Smith & the Cosmic Echoes. The acoustic pianist/electric keyboardist, who was born in Richmond, VA, on December 28, 1940, should not be confused with soul-jazz/hard bop organist Lonnie Smith. This Smith would have had an impressive résumé even if he had never formed a band of his own. In the '60s or early '70s, he had been a sidemen for, among others, Pharoah Sanders, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Gato Barbieri, singer Betty Carter, and trumpeter Miles Davis. In fact, Smith was still in Davis' employ when he signed with producer Bob Thiele's RCA-distributed Flying Dutchman label and recorded his first album as a leader, Astral Traveling (which Thiele produced). Nonetheless, the Cosmic Echoes were a major step forward for Smith -- the improviser had a lot more time to devote to his own compositions and he was free to concentrate on a very spiritual type of fusion that had a variety of influences. The post-bop of model explorers like Coltrane, Sanders, Kirk, Yusef Lateef, McCoy Tyner, and Charles Lloyd was a heavy influence on Smith's composing since all of those artists shared the Cosmic Echoes' spiritual concerns. But the Cosmic Echoes were hardly jazz purists. Their instrumental fusion combined those post-bop influences with funk, pop, and rock, and some of their best-known vocal numbers (which include 1979's "Space Princess" and 1983's "Never Too Late") were outright R&B. It was on April 24, 1973, that Smith recorded Astral Traveling and led his first Cosmic Echoes lineup, which included George Barron (soprano and tenor sax), Joe Beck (guitar), Cecil McBee (bass), David Lee, Jr. (drums), James Mtume (percussion), Sonny Morgan (percussion), Badal Roy (tabla drums), and Geeta Vashi (tamboura). Astral Traveling was entirely instrumental, but it wasn't long before Smith added a vocalist to the Cosmic Echoes: his brother Donald Smith. Although Donald Smith had helped his brother put together the Cosmic Echoes' first lineup, he isn't actually employed on Astral Traveling -- 1974's Thiele-produced Cosmic Funk was the first Cosmic Echoes album that featured him on vocals. From 1974 on, the Cosmic Echoes' albums were typically about 80 percent instrumental, but included a few vocal offerings. Subsequent Cosmic Echoes projects included 1975's Expansions, 1975's Visions of a New World, 1976's Reflections of a Golden Dream, and 1977's Renaissance, all of which were on either Flying Dutchman or RCA proper. Along the way, the Cosmic Echoes had more than their share of personnel changes. When the group recorded a live album for RCA in 1977, the lineup included Smith on piano and keyboards, his brother Donald on vocals, Dave Hubbard on tenor and soprano sax, Al Anderson on electric bass, Ronald Miller on electric guitar, and Hollywood Barker on drums -- a lineup that, except for Lonnie Liston Smith himself, is totally different from the Cosmic Echoes lineup heard on 1973's Astral Traveling. It was in 1978 that Smith and his Cosmic Echoes left RCA and moved to Columbia to record Loveland, which was a respectable seller (at least by jazz standards) and fared well among fusion, crossover, and quiet storm fans. Smith's next Columbia album, Exotic Mysteries, gave us the single, "Space Princess," which featured Donald on lead vocals and became a minor hit. Although Exotic Mysteries was primarily an instrumental fusion album, "Space Princess" wasn't jazz at all -- the tune is funk-disco but still has that mystic Cosmic Echoes vibe. Some people felt that when Smith and his Cosmic Echoes were recording for Columbia in the late '70s and early '80s, they became too slick and commercial -- nonetheless, the group still had integrity and was still enjoyable and interesting during its Columbia period. Donald Smith temporarily left the Cosmic Echoes after Exotic Mysteries and on 1979's Song for the Children, he was replaced by singer James "Crab" Robinson (who is also employed on 1980s Love Is the Answer). And Robinson wasn't the only person who passed through the Cosmic Echoes in the late '70s or early '80s. Others who came on board during Smith's Columbia period included guitarist Abdul Wali, bassist Pee Wee Ford, drummer Lino Reyes, and percussionist Lawrence Killian -- like Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers, Lonnie Liston Smith & the Cosmic Echoes could be a revolving door. Donald Smith ended up returning to the fold in the early '80s, which is also when the Cosmic Echoes were reunited with Thiele (who signed Smith to his new Doctor Jazz label). One of songs that Smith's Cosmic Echoes recorded for Doctor Jazz was the urban/quiet storm vocal number "Never Too Late," which was released as a single and became a minor hit. In the mid-'80s, the Cosmic Echoes unofficially called it quits and Smith moved on to other things. But the pianist/keyboardist (who turned 60 in 2000) returned to a Cosmic Echoes-minded approach in 1998, when he was reunited with his brother Donald and featured him on the album Transformation (which came out on Smith's own label Loveland Records). In 2002, Sony's reissue-oriented Legacy Recordings looked back on the Cosmic Echoes' late '70s and early '80s output with a two-CD retrospective titled Explorations: The Columbia Years. ~ Alex Henderson
full bio

Selected Discography


Track List: Cosmic Funk & Spiritual Sounds: The Flying Dutchman Masters

1. Expansions

2. A Chance For Peace

3. Beautiful Woman

4. Shadows

5. Sunbeams

6. Golden Dreams

7. Astral Traveling

8. Devika (Goddess)

9. Meditations

10. Vision Of A New World (Phase I)

11. Vision Of A New World (Phase II)

12. Cosmic Funk

13. Get Down Everybody (It's Time For World Peace)

14. Desert Nights

15. In Search Of Truth


Track List: Dreams Of Tomorrow / Silhouettes

1. A Lonely Way To Be

2. Mystic Woman

3. The Love I See In Your Eyes

4. Dreams Of Tomorrow

5. Never Too Late

6. Rainbows Of Love

7. Divine Light

8. A Garden Of Peace

9. Warm

10. If You Take Care Of Me

11. Silhouettes

12. Summer Afternoon

13. Enlightenment

14. City Of Lights

15. Once Again Love

16. Just Us Two


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love the comments and agree with all - started listening to Lonnie at age 17 , I'm 60 now and still love this style of fusion over all of the current music - , RTF, George Duke, Alfonse Muzon ,but for that Astral travel - had to be Lonnie Liston Smith - some Dexter Wanzel too
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My kind of groove
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In the early 70's I heard mr smith today I still feel the same when I hear his music heavy, deep thinking,
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I remember in the middle to late 70's. The music was all that and a bag of chips. Especially with Lonnie Liston Smith playing. Thank you.
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hahahaha this was on gta vice city radio
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Spent many a night traveling the cosmos with the Mr. Smith. Sometimes several of us would turn down the lights, get the atmosphere just right, and take off for hours (especially when listening to the reel to reel. Anybody remember those?) listening to the ethereal vibes of Lonnie Liston Smith. The beauty within his music always outweighed the ugliness happening in daily lives. Thanks for that sir!
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L L Smith n myself go wayyy back, to da mid 70's to b exact!! I especially lyk this trak on the "live" album, if u havent heard it......, its a bucket list album!! Find it and listen to it!!
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This is the spiritual side of LLS that go me very interested in this type of jazz funk fusion the driving rythms of great percussion fabulous piano solos with soaring vocals tight beautiful music way ahead of his time visions of a new world is a must have for your collection a blessing to have and share
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RIP love you
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Lonnie Liston Smith, Roy Ayers the Ubiquity Days, George Duke, Earth, Wind and Fire, the Isley Brothers, Pat Metheny, but NONE, absolutely NONE, can match the CHILL STATUS tone and VIBES of both Lonnie and Roy..
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That's College. Days! Love him
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I'm a big fan of Lonnie love all his music.
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This takes me way back hesse.
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The man is unique, real fusion!
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I love Lonnie Liston Smith's sound, Magic!!! CY young
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Came to America in the 70's, I was a teenager hating only comfort was listening to WHUR and the quiet storm, where I was introduced to this music I had never heard before. I was captivated and I've been in love with his music ever since...Evok e s something in me indescribabl e . . . M u s i c ' s not the same anymore. Thx
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A CLASSIC from an amazing artist !!!
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Listen to quality stuff such as this, and compare it to smooth contemporary jazz Muzak of this era. It's like castrating a true Alpha in comparison. Lacks the soul and conviction. This is greatness!!!
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Listening to this music, with my eyes closed, makes me feel like I'm on an ocean voyage, feeling each and every motion of the waves, I don't want it to end, filled with the joy of life
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Expansions.. . . y o u r mind....move to Colorado.
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Lonnie's music makes me think back to the warm moments of my childhood.
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Give peace a chance, beautiful music...wish there was peace ALL over the planet.
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Such a great artist.he in a class by himself. Church
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Back in 1976 I lived in Hempstead, NY at the Twin Oaks apartments and I would played the Expansion disc 24-7. Great album. ...I would have abottle of Lancer and doobie, great time
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"Space Lady"is one of my favorites, but then the other music that Mr. Smith created are just as good orveven better. They are justndam good musicians. ?...period
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I was about 7 or 8 in the mid 70s
and my mother use to take me to
Fort Dupont park ,in Wash DC.
And every sense then I don't
think music of that time could
ever be duplicated again.
Today, when I'm feeling disturb
I listen Lonnie L Smith.
I learned to really appreciate what
it meant to have a real LUV! for
music is......

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Expansions expanded my mind and my taste in music.
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One of my first smooth jazz artist back in the 70's and still one of the best.
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i seen him live in new orleans in the late 80s that made me like him even of the best
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Always liked him.
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I didn't know he was born in Richmond, Virginia
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Close. Your. Eyes
by. Lonnie. Liston. Smith
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Shadows. Mystical Soul BBQ.
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Mystical Fusions~978 ~ 3M 14Y
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Great jazz by the great est
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Lonnie Liston Smith not only rocks, he is uniquely jazz classic!
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I was in my early 20s; help shape my taste in music.....
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Brings back memories from college. He is a true inspiration for me and other musicians. Rock on
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The man was pure on the keyboard the tones made you jump and dance like no other in the 70s and 80slike expand your mine.
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gardenofmone y
ahhh yeah, without question awesome keyboardist who makes beautiful, calming romantic music. yes rr2056....Qu i e t Moments, one of his best!
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Another Music Legacy in the making
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Thank God for Lonnie and his band, more specific his brother Donnie they were ment to play, I believe in my heart that it was their calling, hope this group stay around as long as they can.
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I Have Mr. Smith Explorations CD I Love Jazz !!!
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Lonnie Liston Smith..... What music!!!!!!! ! !
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I love lonnie liston smith. his music has guided me through out my adult years. I had the pleasure of meeting he and his brother Donald twice. Thank You Lonnie for what your music has brought to me.
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If you're a deeply spiritual person,close your eyes and listen to Quiet Moments. IT WILL MOVE YOU TO TEARS! Thank You Lonnie for the means to connect with the Universal Spirit.
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Lonnie Liston Smith you have given the world so much with your music, but I especially thank you for Starlight and You. I had the most romantic dance to that song. I cherish that memory for life. Thanks!
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