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Walter Smith III & Matthew Stevens: In Common III

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Walter Smith III & Matthew Stevens: In Common III
The third iteration of tenor saxophonist Walter Smith III and guitarist Matthew Stevens' In Common project is another delightfully lyrical and inventive affair. Each of the albums presents Smith and Stevens in the company of a different three-piece rhythm section. The first had vibraphonist Joel Ross, bassist Harish Raghavan and drummer Marcus Gilmore. The second had pianist Micah Thomas, bassist Linda May Han Oh and drummer Nate Smith.

On In Common III, the quintet is completed by pianist Kris Davis, bassist Dave Holland and drummer Terri Lyne Carrington.

Aside from the rolling sequence of rhythm sections—an inadequate term in this context given the subtle to and fro between traditional frontline and backline roles—the other part of the In Common formula is what Smith and Stevens call "one-page songs," written with specific musicians in mind. However, In Common III differs from earlier albums in two ways: Davis' presence causes it to lean towards free improvisation from time to time, and, while the sound is overwhelmingly acoustic, there is some judicious post-production electronic knob-twiddling on a few of the shorter tracks (there are fifteen tracks in all, with a total running time of fifty-four minutes).

But essentially, In Common's self-regenerating formula is unchanged. The music continues to be melodic and harmonious, with Davis' diversions into harmonic abstraction measured and well-integrated. Liberties are more often taken with meters than with tonality—and mostly, as on the lovely piano feature "Shutout," Davis stays inside rather than out. The material ranges from the early Terry Riley-esque "Orange Crush" through grown-up groove and ostinato driven swingers. The pervasive vibe is playful and relaxed, that of five empathetic intergenerational master-musicians having fun while gently pushing the envelope.

Track Listing

Shine; Loping; Oliver; Hornets; Orange Crush; After; Lite; For Some Time; Shutout; Reds; Variable; Prince July; Dust; Familiar; Misere.

Personnel

Album information

Title: In Common III | Year Released: 2022 | Record Label: Whirlwind Recordings


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