Terry Myers: Smiles (2011)
Tuneful, swinging and technically polished. Terry Myers isn't worried about anything else jazz is "supposed" to be. Smiles is a relaxed yet energetic romp through some standards, ballads and blues that the Florida-based saxophonist clearly loves to play. There's nothing complex or innovative here, just four musicians having a good time and looking to take the listener along.
A jumping "Them There Eyes" introduces Myers's straightforward approach to contemporary swing. He crafts phrases with rhythm and reason that are fun to follow, even if they're rarely surprising. On other fast numbers such as "It's You Or No One" and the title track, Myers sparks solid grooves from neatly structured patterns. Medium tempos are effective but not as stirring. "Blue Hodge" sounds dutiful rather than heartfelt, disappointing in a tune written for the emotive Johnny Hodges.
A spare but spurring rhythm section gives Myers plenty of room: no modern jazz interjections, just steady propulsion. Pianist Johnny Varro occasionally wraps playful counterpoint around Myers's lines, and contributes coy, Teddy Wilson-inspired solos. Bassist Joel Forbes walks effectively behind the band, and drummer Ed Metz maintains an airy, dancing beat. His solos are hummable orchestrations of skins and cymbals, for example on "Don't Get Around Much Anymore."
Duke Ellington's beloved pop song is given a simmering 6/8 waltz treatment, one of the few breaks from pure swing on this album. While the generic Latin feel on "Blue Prelude" suggests a two-drink minimum at the corner lounge, the reflective pace of "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square" presents Myers at his soul- searching best. His bright tone darkens slightly, but retains its flexibility. Here and on the other ballad "Everything Happens To Me," the saxophonist truly soars even as he sticks to his stylistic guns. In the liner notes Myers explains that if he had it his way, he'd mostly play ballads; the man could probably get by on those instincts. His soprano sax comes off as merely tepid during medium tempo strolls through "As Long As I Live" and "Someday Sweetheart." More chances to hear him open up on the larger horn would have been welcome.
The title of this disc is a great example of honesty in advertising. It won't change the course of music, but it should raise the corners of your lips. You'll know how many more Smiles you need.
Track Listing: Them There Eyes; Blue Prelude; Don´t Get Around Much Anymore; A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square; As Long As I Live; Blue Hodge; Someday Sweetheart; It´s You or No One; Everything Happens To Me; Oh, Baby; When Day is Done; Smiles
Personnel: Terry Myers: tenor and soprano saxophones; Johnny Varro: piano; Joel Forbes: bass; Ed Metz: drums.
Record Label: Arbors Records