Pianist Edgar van Asselt teams his fine trio with tenor saxophonist David Schnitter and trumpet player Nico Schepers for A Smooth Journey, an album that both swings hard and lovingly embraces. Schnitter is perhaps best known for his stint with Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers in the '70s and as a hard bopper who can carry a session on his own. Here, however he is wonderfully immersed in these van Asselt originals as he converses with the catchy hooks and pairs with Schepers for quite pleasing voicings.
Van Asselt, who hails from the Netherlands, is the pianist for The Young Sinatras and he brings some of their melodic big band feel to these more harmonically complex instrumental forays. A rhythm section consisting of bassist Frans van Geest and drummer Joost van Schaik makes this transition work exceedingly well. Van Geest is the first call bassist for the prestigious Jazz Orchestra of the Concertgebouw while van Schaik has appeared with the likes of guitarists Joe Cohn and Philip Catherine. They enable the swing and snuggle up to the ballads with equal aplomb. Van Asselt locks arms with them wonderfully to integrate the involved, quickly changing rhythmic basis of "Vox Populi" into its trumpet/sax voicings, give the "Wauwie Zauwie Blues" its pop, plaintively entreat the band to "Waltz for Me Bro" and warmly caress "Pra Elis."
Schnitter can cleverly summon the spirits at surprising moments to give additional spice to the catchy melodies. Such is the case on CD opener "Theme Song," whose simple melody is quickly expanded upon in Trane-like manner while closer "Eye Candy' is a deliciously funky chitlin' circuit tribute. He also contributes two tunes of his own, the little big band swinger "September 16th" and a touching ballad entitled "Obscurity," rounding out a very strong and accessible session that will both get your feet tapping and tug at your emotions.
Track Listing: Theme song; September 16th; Waltz For Me Bro'; Minor Mischief; Pra Elis; The Wauwie Zauwie Blues; Vox Populi; Obscurity; Eye Candy.
Personnel: Edgar van Asselt: piano; Nico Schepers: trumpet; David Schnitter: tenor sax; Frans van Geest: bass; Joost van Schaik: drums.