With Steve [Lindeman]'s departure and Ray [Smith]'s retirement in a year this is the end of an era. We've worked together for so long, recording and performing together for nearly three decades. It's been a lot of fun.
Q’d Up celebrates its enduring creative bounty on Tantara Records’ October 8 release Going Places. The venturesome quintet, formed in 1983 out of the jazz faculty at Brigham Young University, packs their seventh recording with eleven original compositions of hard-charging, straight-ahead jazz with bold progressive touches.
Going Places also marks a sunset of sorts for the band. Its founding saxophonist/multi-instrumentalist, Ray Smith, and veteran keyboardist Steve Lindeman have both put in their retirement papers from the BYU School of Music after decades of service. Other longtime faculty members and Q’d Up players Eric Hansen (bass), Jay Lawrence (drums/vibraphone), and Ron Saltmarsh (guitar) will carry the torch, but the band’s chemistry and sound will inevitably take a new shape with two of its key members saying farewell.
“With Steve’s departure and Ray’s retirement in a year, this is the end of an era,” says Lawrence. “We’ve worked together for so long, recording and performing together for nearly three decades. It’s been a lot of fun.”
One might imagine that sentiment would color such a changing of the guard. Instead, Going Places finds Q’d Up as exuberant and inquisitive as ever. Even the album’s lone ballad, Lawrence’s beautiful “Timpanogos Snowfall,” is shot through with joy and energy that snap the listener to attention. If that’s the band at its most mellow, pieces like the fusion-injected “The Twilight Train,” the lively Afro-Caribbean “Arumana,” and the soulful groover “Perfect Pizza” are nothing short of electrifying.
As has been their habit, the band also brings in some friends to help out on a few tracks. Two former members, drummer Ron Brough and bassist Matt Larson, add memorable contributions to “Timpanogos Snowfall” and “Escarlatta,” respectively. The latter tune, along with Lindeman’s irresistible second line “Tchoupitoulas,” also feature the zesty vocals of Hayley Kirkland, a BYU alum who recently joined the jazz faculty in her own right. With colleagues like these on hand, Going Places suggests that in its next chapter, the band will remain as fruitful and accomplished as it ever has. Lawrence, who with Smith’s retirement becomes the senior member, says, “We’ve always been flexible. I’m optimistic about the future.”
Q’d Up is the brainchild of Ray Smith, a native Utahn and graduate of Indiana University’s prestigious Jacobs School of Music. He arrived at Brigham Young as the professor of saxophone—one of more than thirty instruments he plays—in 1982; a year later, he and a group of his colleagues came together to form what was then called the Faculty Jazz Quartet or Quintet (FJQ—the Q was versatile).
The band’s next longest-tenured members, drummer/vibraphonist Jay Lawrence and keyboardist Steve Lindeman (a classmate of Smith’s at IU), both came to BYU and the band in the mid-1990s. Shortly after their arrival, in 1998, the FJQ dropped its first two initials and reconfigured the last into the more playful moniker Q’d Up.
This new incarnation established itself in 1999 with its self-titled debut recording, featuring bassist Lars Yorgason (a founding member in 1983) and drummer/percussionist Ron Brough (who was with the band since 1984) alongside Smith, Lawrence, and Lindeman. After a few more albums and personnel changes, Eric Hansen took the bass chair for Q’d Up’s fifth album, 2018’s Never Better; guitarist Ron Saltmarsh arrived for 2019’s Zagranitsa: Mystical Wonderland. (This configuration of Q’d Up has recorded one additional album, Dawn Fire Mist, the group’s eighth, which releases in tandem with Going Places.)
Q’d Up—and its members, all of whom are prolific and in-demand musicians in Provo (BYU’s home base), Salt Lake City, and throughout Utah—remains one of the state’s hidden treasures. As Smith, who also produces the album, remarks in its liner notes, “If you don’t know the group, you are in for a very happy and exciting discovery.”
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