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Tommy Smith/Brian Kellock: Whispering of the Stars (2014)

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Tommy Smith
Tommy Smith
Tommy Smith
b.1967
saxophone
is known best for his directorship of the The Scottish National Jazz Orchestra. The group has emerged as one of the finest of big bands with offerings like the classic In the Spirit of Duke (Spartacus records, 2013), a tribute to Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
1899 - 1974
piano
, Rhapsody In Blue (Spartacus Records, 2006), an extended and stunning remake of George Gershwin
George Gershwin
George Gershwin
1898 - 1937
composer/conductor
's classic tune, and the inspired backing of Norwegian bassist Arild Andersen
Arild Andersen
Arild Andersen
b.1945
bass, acoustic
on the 2012 ECM Records release, Celebration. But Smith is also a killer saxophonist, who excels in a variety of small group settings, including a trio headed by Norwegian bassist Arild Andersen—and also including drummer Paolo Vinaccia—on Live at Belleville (Spartacus Records, 2010) and Mira (Spartacus Records, 2014), and now, paring thing down further, for a duo outing with Scottish Jazz Orchestra's pianist, Brian Kellock
Brian Kellock
Brian Kellock
b.1962
, on Whispering of the Stars.

The duet form has reputation for intimacy. The dialogue between pianist and saxophonist here, on a set of well-chosen standards, is certainly that. It is also warm, relaxed, reverent, and a display case for the virtuosity—combined with a very engaging whispering tenderness—of these two star jazz men.

Whispering of the Stars is a mostly ballad outing, with a good dose of Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
1899 - 1974
piano
, and is proof that Smith would have fit well in Duke's orchestra, in a chair right beside Ben Webster
Ben Webster
Ben Webster
1909 - 1973
sax, tenor
. The set's centerpiece is a nine minute medley that includes Ellington's "In A Sentimental Mood," and "Sophisticated Lady," and "Come Sunday," beside Billy Strayhorn
Billy Strayhorn
Billy Strayhorn
1915 - 1967
piano
's (the Duke's right hand man in composing for the famous orchestra) "A Flower is a Lovesome Thing," as well as Burt Bachrach's "Alfie," Thelonious Monk's "Round Midnight," and more.

Kellock lays down lush backdrops for Smith's melodic musings on "Stardust" and "It Could Happen To You," with a sparkling touch that twinkles gently on "When You Wish Upon a Star" through "Alfie" on the "Ballad Melody." Kellock ramps up the rhythm on Vernon Duke's "Takin' a Chance on Love," one of the set's more up-tempo offerings, before laying down a spare, measured accompaniment on yet another Ellington gem, "Warm Valley," and on the wistful and haunting Michel Legrand
Michel Legrand
Michel Legrand
b.1932
piano
tune, "The Summer Knows."

In terms of traditional and gorgeous representations of the jazz standards and Great American Songbook tunes, Whispering of the Stars" would be hard to beat. New ground isn't broken here, that's not the point. Familiar ground is explored in loving detail, revealing new shades and colors and sonic lays of the land by a pair of our finest music makers.


Track Listing: You Must Believe In Spring; Stardust; It Could Happen To You; Ballad Medley (In A Sentimental Mood, The Peacocks, Sophisticated Lady, A Flower Is A Lovesome Thing, Moonlight In Vermont, Pure Imagination, Somewhere Over The Rainbow, Come Sunday, Round Midnight, You Without A Song, Alfie); Taking A Chance On Love; Warm Valley; The Summer Knows; Moonlight Seranade; When You Wish Upon A Star; You've Changed; I'm In The Mood For Love; I Apologise.

Personnel: Tommy Smith: tenor Saxophone; Brian Kellock: piano

Record Label: Spartacus Records


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