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Live Reviews

Living in the Shadows: Drummer Warren Smith Solos at UMass Amherst

By Published: October 6, 2007

To complete the one-set program, Smith performed three additional pieces. In one, Smith in effect energized his drum set, as only Roach could have made the "multiple percussive instrument behave, seizing on every dynamic potential of his four-tom grouping. It was the first time the bass drum entered the sound. For another composition, what Smith articulated on the three tympani was unquestionably the blues, written by Smith for one of his former M'Boom band members. And for the last, Smith improvised using his entire entourage of instruments; the drummer dedicated the improv on this occasion to the audience.

It is easy to understand how Smith has been called upon to perform in so many different idioms and circumstances, from Broadway, to R&B, to classical to jazz. Because the percussionist has got rhythm and chops, he's an asset in virtually any musical context. His stellar versatility, however, has finally brought him to a place where he can attend to what he calls "conceptual improvisation."

This creative mode of playing allows Smith to probe the deepest recesses of his being, to reach for the tenderness and heart that hold people together... at the most apparent level it enabled him, as the tympani reverberated the tune of Ellington's "It Don't Mean a Thing, to shape his mouth carefully in order to sing in a hushed and utterly non-pretentious manner: "Doo-wop... Doo-wop... Doo-wop."

Photo credit Lyn Horton

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