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NJ JazzFest 2002: Earl May - Big Smile, Big Bass Makes Jazz Swing

Daniel Kassell By

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Behind the piano and alto saxophone is Earl May's big acoustic bass sound, most prominent along with Eddie Locke's light cymbal and stick work, propelling his own composition "Sunday Morning Blues" with verve and gusto, even though it's only just past noon on this Sunday, June 23rd under the tent at New Jersey Jazz Society's 30th Anniversary JazzFest 2002 in Madison,NJ.
Altoist Dave Glasser announced their vocalist as, "Someone who will tell it Like It Is". Applause. Carrie Smith poses a question to the audience, "What is jazz? (But) twenty-nine Hail Mary's and stuff you made up!" Connection established, she lightly begins "Blue Skies" as an up-tempo romp that charms and relaxes this audience.
"I've Got the World on a String . . . I'm in Love", has a bounce to it that reminds me of Ms. Smith's life long positive attitude in spite of many years of professional adversity.
"Billie Holiday", remember that name? She was the best that ever did it! . . . at Carnegie Hall, . . . with a gardenia in her hair, . . . she could say love like nobody else in the world", Carrie reminisced before singing, "She's Funny That Way". Teddy Wilson was evidently an influence on Larry Ham's piano rhythm. On "Mack The Knife" the whole group played out those familiar parts however, it was Dave Glasser's alto solo that got the audience going for Ms. Smith to growl a mock imitation of "Satchmo" Louie Armstrong and she got the audience clapping and just having fun.

Carrie Smith is one of the best dressed and bejewelled vocalists singing in jazz today. Remember the PBS Special, The Benny Goodman - Loren Schoenberg Big Band? She stole that show, too. Today because of the wonderful sound and rhythm of Earl May's string bass (smiles included) and Eddie Locke's well-tuned drum-kit (complements of collector Don Robertson), Larry Ham's thoughtful accompaniment and Dave Glasser's alto solos, Carrie Smith's blues singing was the highlight of JazzFest 2002.

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