Trumpeter Louis Smith’s only major claim to fame has been two late ‘50s dates he cut for Blue Note. Then his propensity for musical pedagogy led him to the University of Michigan, where he spent many years quietly teaching and inspiring youngsters. Back in 1978, a renewed career as a recording artist came in the guise of a contract with the Danish SteepleChase label, briefly interrupted in the ‘80s by a return to teaching. Now, Smith finds himself retired and that has given him more time to concentrate on his trumpet work once again.
Cut in Denmark during Smith’s summer vacation in 1998, Once In a While is representative of the kind of bebop session that is part and parcel of Smith’s time-honored approach, although the line-up is a novel one not used previously by the trumpeter. Guitarist Doug Raney is the ringer in this piano-less group that also includes SteepleChase regular Keith Copeland on drums. The quartet hits a relaxed, but resolute groove on a set of eight golden standards, including a tip of the hat to Louis’ fellow trumpeters- namely through versions of Miles Davis’ "Tune Up" and Clifford Brown’s "Sandu."
Never much of a technician, Smith still has the ability to construct intelligent solos that tell a story and his sound is marked by a round and softened timbre. Raney should have received equal billing here, because his rich and melodic lines are some of the best moments to be found among this generous offering of music. Cutting to the chase, this no-nonsense affair is a worthy addition to Smith’s burgeoning recorded career. And who says there ain't life after retirement?
Just Friends, Once In a While, Over the Rainbow, Tune Up, Don't Blame Me, Once I Had a Secret Love, Sandu, There Is No Greater Love (70:26)
Louis Smith- trumpet, Doug Raney- guitar, Hugo Rasmussen- bass, Keith Copeland- drums
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