Scottish saxophonist Tommy Smith boasts a corpulent and ringing tone via his zealous articulation of extended notes and stylish mode of execution as he often melds tenacity with grace and eloquence. Here, Smith unites with guitarist John Scofield, bassist James Genus and drummer Clarence Penn for a jazz/blues based venture, aptly titled, Blue Smith.
In some instances, the pairing of Smith and Scofield does indeed rekindle thoughts of the guitarist’s now legendary early 90’s teaming with tenor sax icon Joe Lovano; however, with this release, the band pursues medium tempo swing-blues motifs along with dashes of post-bop thrown into the mix. Enhanced by a luminescent audio production, Smith and Scofield trade warm bluesy lines atop Penn’s loose rhythms on “El Nino” while they switch gears for the funk-groove piece, “Hubba Hubba” which remains fairly consistent with Scofield’s recent bump, grind and funk induced recordings. “Dr. Sco” features enticing and rapidly executed bop-ish choruses augmented by Smith’s commanding presence and brawny, angular attack. - - Scofield and Smith do exhibit a respectable amount of synergy as the guitarist’s somewhat gruff toned electric guitar voicings and punishing leads serve as a nice foil for Smith’s rich lyricism and noticeably elegant demeanor. However the saxophonist does pack a mighty punch, especially on the four bar blues composition, “Blacken’ Blue”. On this piece the extraordinary bassist James Genus steers the walking blues tempo with his resonant and rather poignant single note lines as Scofield melds fragmented be-bop phraseology with blues driven emotion.
With Blue Smith Tommy Smith adds yet another meritorious chapter to his impressive career. - Last year he performed steamy renditions of Ellington-Strayhorn ballads on The Sound of Love and here, along with a superstar band, Smith provides all the excitement and fireworks that one would expect as we eagerly await his next venture.
* * * * (out of * * * * *)
Tommy Smith; tenor & soprano saxophones: John Scofield; guitar: James Genus; acoustic bass: Clarence Penn; drums