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.
Track Listing: Cyclic Episode; Kate Song; Tail Of Benin; Benny
Personnel: Walter Smith III: tenor and soprano saxophones; Ambrose Akinmusire: trumpet (1,4,7); Lionel
Loueke: guitar, vocals (2,4); Lage Lund: guitar (3); Aaron Parks: piano, Fender Rhodes; Robert
Glasper: Fender Rhodes (2); 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); Gretchen Parlato: vocals (2);
Matt Kilmer: electronic hand percussion (2).
I love jazz because it is both challenging and exhilarating, and the endeavor of improvisation is the highest form of art.
I met so many great musicians--including my two earliest heroes, Maynard Ferguson and Dizzy Gillespie--by attending concerts
and being willing to treat them with the respect they deserve.
The best show I ever attended was the Pat Metheny/Ornette Coleman Song X concert at Cornell University.
The first jazz record I bought was an RCA compilation by Dizzy Gillespie.
My advice to new listeners is to not be afraid to listen to something because you're not familiar with the artists or the band or
the genre or anything - this is music that is best experienced through discovery.