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Ches Smith: Interpret It Well


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Ches Smith: Interpret It Well
Ches Smith's extraordinary Path of Seven Colors (Pyroclastic Records, 2021) was a breakout recording that placed the drummer/composer at the top of many year-end lists. His sophomore outing on Kris Davis' label bears little similarity to his Pyroclastic debut beyond the artist's knack for discovering unexplored terrain. Interpret It Well reunites the trio of pianist Craig Taborn, violist Mat Maneri, and Smith (The Bell (ECM, 2016)) and adds guitarist Bill Frisell.

With these master improvisers in place, Smith confidently lays out a foundation and allows his colleagues the liberty to dig deeper; they frequently extract unanticipated results. Witness the occasionally studied, sometimes elusive shifts in mood and dynamics that occur within the half-hour of the back-to-back title track and "Mixed Metaphor." Maneri's contributions often impart a chamber quality and that is the case in the fifteen-plus minute "Clear Major." Like a dream within a dream—without the Edgar Allen Poe despair—the piece almost evaporates at times but comes back with a new solidity.

What Frisell brings to The Bell's original formation is difficult to quantify. His solo passages and augmentations can be folkloric or piercing. And like Maneri, he has an uncanny ability to gradually disappear, almost unobserved in the eclectic density of the music. On "Morbid" Frisell weaves in and out of Taborn's piano and Smith's vibes. With each episode, Frisell seems to take on an altered identity.

Interpret It Well takes its title from the pop artist Raymond Pettibon who often mixed his images with creative writing in a chimerical setting. All of which fits nicely with Smith's compositions but even in the album's most impulsive improvisations, the music is remarkably articulate. Smith's leader work makes one further question the logic of placing arbitrary definitions and categories on creative music. His approach to composing feels similar to the most broadly artistic works of Tyshawn Sorey and Henry Threadgill and with Interpret It Well, he has another unclassifiable winner.

Track Listing

Trapped; Interpret It Well; Mixed Metaphor; Morbid; Clear Major; I Need More; Deppart.


Bill Frisell
guitar, electric
Additional Instrumentation

Ches Smith: vibraphone.

Album information

Title: Interpret It Well | Year Released: 2022 | Record Label: Pyroclastic Records




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