Walter Smith III, a striking saxophonist, has entered the arena with this promising debut. A rising horn player, he has performed and shared the stage with a variety of musicians, including jazz veterans (Roy Haynes, Ralph Peterson), pop stars (Destiny's Child, Lauren Hill), and contemporary jazz luminaries (Terence Blanchard, Jason Moran).
Like recordings by other younger artists, this disc integrates a variety of styles and influences into a jazz framework, creating an open avenue in which Smith can channel his ideas. They are carried forth by a cast of young jazz leaders who are already making their own marks, including pianist Robert Glasper, guitarist Lionel Loueke, drummer Eric Harland, and many others.
The recording touches on many different levels and styles. The sheer power of hard bop is communicated in the Sam Rivers composition "Cyclic Episode, whose circuitous melody is parsed into various instrumental sections, building with a scorching tempo and incendiary solos. The cool textures of the Fender Rhodes alongside Smith's arid sax appear on "Kate Song and the odd-metered "Tail of Benin, where Smith alternates between natural and electronic wind effects. There's also a wonderful cover of West African guitar sensation Lionel Loueke's "Benny's where Loueke contributes his unique guitar and vocals.
This aural glossary also includes the beauty of traditional sources like the rare Mingus composition "Duke Ellington's Sound of Love, where Smith's tenor is throaty and eloquent, showing empathy for the classic work. Surprisingly, instead of going for the burn, the recording continues on a mellow path with another standard and two Smith compositions that reveal his depth and arranging skills. But Smith does flex his tenor muscles, swinging hard on the "Blues with bassist Rueben Rogers and drummer Eric Harland in an all-out performance workout that could only be accomplished by highly skilled jazz musicians.
Tail Of Benin;
Walter Smith lll: tenor,soprano sax;
Aaron Parks: piano, fender rhodes;
Reuben Rogers: bass (1,2,4,6,7,9);
Vicente Archer: bass (3,5,8);
Eric Harland: drums (1,2,4,6,7,9);
Kendrick Scott:drums (3,5,8);
Ambrose Akinmusire: trumpet (1,4,7);
Lionel Loueke: guitar, vocals (2,4);
Robert Glasper: Fender Rhodes (2);
Lage Lund: guitar (3);
Gretchen Parlato: vocals (3);
Matt Kilmer:electronic hand percussion (2).
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