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Warren Smith: Old News Borrowed Blues

Jerry D'Souza By

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Warren Smith (drums, vibraphone, percussion) does not have a deep discography as a leader, and so any recording by him is most welcome. All the music on this CD has been performed live but never released, and the wait makes hearing it all the sweeter.

Though his work as leader has been thin, Smith has played and recorded with some of jazz's more challenging musicians including Anthony Braxton, Muhal Richard Abrams, George Russell and Julius Hemphill. He was also an important part of the New York loft scene, opening his own loft for concerts by musicians integral to free jazz like Wadada Leo Smith and Oliver Lake.

While free forms were core to his heart, Smith never lost sight of melody and composition. His approach is reflected in the diversity of music on Old News Borrowed Blues, a title he says mirrors the times and problems of today's world.

Problems take a back seat once the music comes on. It is transcendental and captivating, as the nectar of melody meets the urge for freedom. The former comes up and dances on "Rivers State Suite" with African rhythms coursing through its veins. The horn lines are silken and sinuous as they express the melody; the beat, carved on percussion, is bouncy and adds impact to the emotional pitch. The three movements form a seamless and attractive whole as they drive the pulse into an ecstatic realm.

"Free Forms 1-4" opens the door to a wider panorama, as perception casts away fetters and lets the musicians rove high and wide. But as they do so they don't lose focus, making their inventions both dramatic and earthy. Caterwauling horns and bebop riffs add to the punch, but credit Smith with a sense of humor—he knits the four movements with some constructed melodies. He closes out the suite with a spoken word dramatization against a soprano sax line that blends cool linearity with bent notes before the rest come in to add explosive tangents.

Now that the music has finally been released, it is time to indulge and drink deep from its cup.


Track Listing: Lock the Toilet Door; Rivers State Suite; The Hungarian Gypsy Song; One More Lick for Harold Vick; Free Forms 1-4.

Personnel: John Carlton: trumpet and flugelhorn; Cecil Bridgewater: trumpet and flugelhorn; Joe Daley: euphonium; Jack Jeffers: bass trombone; Craig Rivers: soprano saxophone; James Stewart: tenor saxophone; Douglas Yates: alto saxophone; Andrew Lamb: tenor saxophone soloist (2); Claire Daly: baritone saxophone; Jaribu Shahid: bass violin; Yoham "Chiqui" Ortiz: guitar; Elusegun Sangofemi: African percussion; Jose Abreu: African percussion; Lloyd Haber: drums, vibraphone and percussion; Warren Smith: drums, vibraphone and percussion.

Title: Old News Borrowed Blues | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: ESP Disk


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