Nathaniel Smith Quartet: Nathaniel Smith Quartet (2010)
Drummer Nathaniel Smith's music can be characterized as modern jazz that often finds serenity in searching, angular confines. Smith's quartet, which features rising star saxophone maverick Jon Irabagon, finds its way and brings these intriguing compositions to life without resorting to unnecessary fireworks.
Smith wrote five of the seven pieces here, and each one possesses admirable traits. "Daybreak And Then Dusk" starts things off, with Irabagon's swooning saxophone sliding over the group, but the followup, "Tortoise Pendant," is more memorable. Bassist Mark Anderson locks everything into place for this groove in eleven, guitarist Jostein Gulbrandsen provides some gleaming chordal work, and the piece ends with Irabagon and Gulbrandsen gleefully delivering dovetailing lines over one another.
Gulbrandsen's two compositional contributions show some contrast in his writing style. "Return Of The Bear" is built on twisty rhythms, with Irabagon heating things up during his solo, while "Tomorrow's Perfume" is a dreamy, sparsely populated piece. Smith's brushwork here, and his ability to conjure a variety of sounds out of his cymbals and off his kit, is remarkable and adds greatly to the aural atmosphere that the quartet creates.
A hip, understated groove underscores "Actionable Intelligence" and Irabagon is superb, in his most straightforward performance on the album. When he hands the baton over to Gulbrandsen, the guitarist comes in with a biting tone that only pops up on this track, and the rest of the rhythm section loosens up behind him. "Travishamockery" is blues filtered through Smith's modernist mind, and Gulbrandsen's soloing has a blues-jazz-fusion-country hybrid twang to it. Anderson steps out front as a featured soloist here, and Smith delivers some fine drum work when the solo trading begins.
The album closes with the buoyant "Shadow Puppet," which reaches its apex when Smith solos with accents that work against Anderson's established pulse. Once again, the Fresh Sound New Talent label has found an artist that perfectly reflects the ideals within its name.
Track Listing: Daybreak And Then Dusk; Tortoise Pendant; Return Of The Bear; Tomorrow's Perfume; Actionable Intelligence; Travishamockery; Shadow Puppet.
Personnel: Nathaniel Smith: drums; Jon Irabagon: saxophones; Mark Anderson: bass; Jostein Gulbrandsen: guitar.
Record Label: Fresh Sound New Talent