Walter Smith has a whole lot going on here. On this programme of originals and standards, the saxophonist's work is often so far advanced from a harmonic standpoint (in particular) that he manages to carve out his own space in the modern mainstream idiom, and that's no mean feat in itself.
He also likes to take his time, and in these days of often hyperactive-sounding soloists, that's more than welcome, too. He's no apostle of technical display for its own sake. This is perhaps best exemplified by his reading of Mingus' "Duke Ellington's Sound Of Love," where he makes every note count while retaining his own deep musical personality. The result shows just why this area of the music continues to offer rewarding listening.
In titling his own compositions, he might have played the enigmatic card with "Wooden Box (Spatula In Three)," where the quartet of Smith, Aaron Parks (keys), Reuben Rogers (bass) and Eric Harland (drums) simultaneously occupies rarefied musical territory and a space rife with precedents. The musicians' intuitive feel for each other's work also elevates the performance above the norm and emphasises just what a rich musical seam this can be when it's mined properly.
The piano-less reading of Ornette Coleman's "Peace" has the effect of revealing just how singular many of Coleman's early compositions remain. The fact that it's played by a sax/trumpet/bass/drums quartet, all of whose members bring their own musical personalities to bear, is a tribute to the importance of musical character.
Maybe it's inevitable that "promising" is one of the epithets often attached to first recordings. On this occasion, however, the words "casual introduction" are an underselling of the richness of the musicand if indeed this is the precedent for music to come, it's also evidence of richness of musical personality. Here's to the next one accordingly.
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).