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Enoch Smith, Jr.: Church boy

Javier AQ Ortiz By

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Enoch Smith, Jr.: Church boy Pianist and composer Enoch Smith, Jr. appears in the recorded jazz landscape fully blossomed, ripened and in full swing. His thrilling ChurchBboy bears a brazen and welcomed Christian musical engraving that offers proof of expected influences from classical, soul, gospel music and the Protestant Christian hymnody. However, there's no denying the Latin and Caribbean tinges, such as on the reggae-like "Untitled (No Words)." In a repertoire that pretty much divides itself neatly in half between lively and mid-tempo material, just about a third of the production reflects such tinges.



"Sunday Morning Rush" features an impelling and percussive guajeo on piano, with an underlying conga guaguancó pattern from the Cuban rumba musical family, as the basis for its deceivingly relaxed and simple rhythmic and harmonic structure, upon which trumpeter Donald Malloy and the leader showcase their chops. Malloy floats through decisively, unobtrusively and economically, with excellent ideas. Smith, Jr. follows him in similar fashion, his right hand pulling a few surprising ditties of note.



The Caribbean-flavored "Lord I Lift Your Name On High" sounds like a Holy Roller version of Sonny Rollins' "St. Thomas," with altoist Laquin Lay, conguera Paula Green and drummer Rudy Royston taking a burning front stage as bassist Jordan Scannella and Smith, Jr. don't lag behind one bit as the supporting cast.



"With Soul," musically akin to the Cuban conga—the Congolese-rooted genre behind the fame conga dance and Cuban carnivals and not just the instrument—marches on, with Malloy once again taking a beautiful lead—saying much without any self- indulgent flashiness or mouthpiece diarrhea. Josh Irving follows on alto sax, giving Lay a run for his money with a slightly darker tone. Smith, Jr.'s solo is also impressive; he is a disciplined, thrifty and fetching thinker. The composition even closes with drummer Terry Dillard clearly stating the 2/3 clavé pattern at the bottom of the tune's rhythmic bedrock.



The group's performances rely on a fine front line pairing of alto sax and trumpet, intelligent and engaging writing—well exemplified in "Waltz For Mona" and "Prelude to Joy"—young, hungry and well-rounded musicians, and a couple of opportunities to listen to Smith, Jr. and his piano on their own.



Lordy, this ain't just a Church Boy recording.

Track Listing: Mount Olive Hop; Sunday Morning Rush; Prelude to Joy; Lord I Lift Your Name on High; A Mighty Fortress; With Soul; Remembering Rochester; I Surrender All; Waltz For Mona; Untitled (No Words); Remembering Rochester (Alt. Take).

Personnel: Enoch Smith, Jr.: piano; Laquin Lay: alto sax (1, 4, 11); Josh Irving: alto sax (1-3, 6-7, 11, 12); Donald Malloy: trumpet (1-3, 6, 9- 11);Jordan Scannella: bass (1-4, 6, 7, 9-11); Paula Green: percussion ((1-4, 6, 7, 9-11); Terry Dillard: drums (1-3, 6, 10, 11); Rudy Royston: drums (4, 7, 9, 11, 12).

Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Self Produced | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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