A debut CD has to be good to get noticedreally good. Also, behind the pretty, well-designed cover art, an aspiring jazz person with a low profile has to have some nerve to put forty-five minutes to an hour of brand new music out there. At the very least, a new-to-the-scene artist better be able to run with the pack of more established players, or be quickly forgotten.
Soprano saxophonist Jasmine Lovell-Smith, who moved to New York from New Zealand in 2010, has put together a marvelous quintet, Towering Poppies. Her soprano horn is paired a bit unusually with a trumpet and rhythm section that can definitely run with the pack. Fortune Songs features all-original music from the leader, who has crafted a very fresh sound.
Though Lovell-Smith is the leader, it's definitely a group effort. Opening with "Confidence (One)," the band reveals a chamber jazz esthetic on this bright and very engaging melody. Lovell-Smith's tone on the straight horn is rich and warm, and melds beautifully with Big Chief Russell Moore's trumpet. With a deceptive spontaneous complexity, in the five way interplay, the approach is simple and straightforward. The leader takes a solo and subtle, cool things happen all around. Cat Toren slips into a reflective piano turn on a trio interlude filled with drummer Kate Pittman's constant small surprises with bassist Patrick Reid's agile foundation. With a relaxed and patient confidence, Moore blows in with just enough notes until Lovell-Smith returns for some gorgeous two-horn harmony.
The set maintains a continuous reflective mood and a pastoral, folksong-like quality. "Darkling I Listen" opens with Lovell-Smith sounding like a forest piper as she gives way to a searching piano trio until Reid takes the lead in the spare, magic comps of Toren and Pittman. "Confidence (Two)" unfolds, as does all the music here, with a measured grace, a meditation of subtle tones, and intricate rhythmic nooks and crannies.
Fortune Songs transpires effortlessly, with the quintet deeply connected, as they lay down these beautiful melodies. It is a superb debut by an artist and a band that does much more than run with the pack. Topping this with a sophomore effort is going to be a challengeone that Jasmine Lovell-Smith can surely pull off.
Confidence (One); Darkling I Listen; Let Go Be Free; Confidence (Two); Seven of Swords; A Nest to Fly; Lover's Knot; When the Tide is Right.
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