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Ian Hendrickson-Smith: Smokin' at Smoke

Elliott Simon By

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Live recordings tend to be from established leaders who are either stretching out previously released studio performances or making a new statement. However, the young altoist, Ian Hendrickson-Smith, has not only chosen to debut as a leader through a live recording but has also continued in this vein for his sophomore offering. A regular at NYC's club Smoke, Hendrickson-Smith initially weighed in with last year's Up in Smoke and has just released Still Smokin' , both hour long sets recorded 16 months apart at the small uptown venue. While Up in Smoke featured a tight quartet boasting David Hazeltine on piano, this year's model has Hazeltine returning but expands the sound and extends the quartet's reach with the inclusion of Ryan Kisor on trumpet and versatile guitarist Peter Bernstein featured on selected cuts.

Up In Smoke
Sharp Nine
2003

Both sessions clearly capture the intimate atmosphere that is Smoke and are an absorbing documentation of a working band. Up in Smoke presents a varied program that is the perfect vehicle for Hendrickson-Smith to display his full tone on standards such as "The Best Things in Life are Free", "I'll Close My Eyes" and Billy Strayhorn's "Chelsea Bridge". Although much of Hendrickson-Smith's playing goes down like a relaxing rich full bodied ruby port, he also effectively plays the blues on the title cut, hits a Latin groove with Hazeltine's adept assistance on Cal Tjader's "Curacao" and impresses with rapidity and inventiveness on Charlie Parker's "Segment".

Still Smokin'
Sharp Nine
2004

Still Smokin' hits its stride with a delightfully extended arrangement of Cole Porter's "Love for Sale". Hendrickson-Smith's alto is paired with Ryan Kisor's trumpet as they vary tempos between the bluesy exotic melody and a quick bop interpretation. The rhythm section, which includes Hazeltine, returning drummer Joe Strasser and bassist Peter Washington, keeps things in step with Hazeltine adding his own boppish take on things. The self composed "Sparrow in Flight" serves as a means for piano, alto, trumpet and Bernstein's guitar to extend their solo wings while "I Can't Get Started" has Hendrickson-Smith setting up a graceful line on flute that is ably extended by Bernstein as the two trade off. While "Ian's Bossa" again has Hazeltine steering things in a Latin direction, Charlie Chaplin's "Smile" and the standard "I Wish You Love" are straight no chaser swingers. It may take a bit of nerve for a young player to introduce himself by way of a live date, but Hendrickson-Smith has shown that he and his band are well worth getting to know.

Up In Smoke
Tracks: The Best Things In Life Are Free, Molly, Chelsea Bridge, Curacao, Portrait Of Smith, I'll Close My Eyes, Segment, Up In Smoke!, Sassy

Personnel: Ian Hendrickson-Smith-alto saxophone; David Hazeltine-piano; Barak Mori-bass; Joe Strasser-drums

Still Smokin'
Tracks: Love For Sale, Memories of You, Jacob's Crib, Sparrow's Flight, Ian's Bossa, I Can't Get Started, Smile, San Francisco Beat

Personnel: Ian Hendrickson-Smith-alto saxophone; Ryan Kisor-trumpet; Peter Bernstein-guitar; David Hazeltine-piano; Peter Washington-bass; Joe Strasser-drums


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