Jimmy Smith, Legendary Jazz Organist, Dies

Smith's music often sampled by hip-hop DJs and producers.

Jazz organist Jimmy Smith passed away Tuesday at the age of 76, apparently having died in his sleep during an afternoon nap.

The legendary musician was a hugely influential figure in music, whose style of play affected not only his own genre but others, including hip-hop. DJs and producers often sample his soulful riffs; among the songs on which Smith’s music appears are the Beastie Boys’ “Root Down” and A Tribe Called Quest’s “Push It Along.”

Smith played piano before switching to the organ in the early 1950s, and his innovative style of playing the Hammond B-3 organ helped revolutionize the sound of jazz while he was recording for influential record labels like Blue Note and Verve.

Smith’s manager, Bob Clayton, discovered the musician’s body at around 1:30 p.m. at his Phoenix-area home, where he had taken a nap while watching television. He said Smith had been in generally good health and that the night before he seemed in positive spirits.

The body is being flown to Philadelphia, where the musician was born and raised. Details on services will be announced by the family shortly.