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Steve Smith's Jazz Legacy at the Bach, Half Moon Bay, CA

Bill Leikam By

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Steve Smith's Jazz Legacy
Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society, Douglas Beach House
Miramar Beach, Half Moon Bay, California
October 5, 2008


Steve Smith's Jazz Legacy quintet dropped into the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society Sunday afternoon for the fourth stop on its fall tour. Accompanying him on the stage was Jim Snidero (alto sax), Walt Weiskopf (tenor soprano saxophones), Mark Soskin (piano) and Baron Browne (bass). This powerhouse jazz group thrilled the house with tributes to jazz drummers: Tony Williams, Elvin Jones, "Philly" Joe Jones and Art Blakey. The set numbers included several originals, most impressively Weiskopf's "Insubordination."

Overall, the concert was a moving experience as Smith's powerful drumming surged resoundingly in the intimate setting. Not that the show was without a downside. Frequently during both sets Soskin's piano as well as Browne's bass were drowned out, overwhelmed by the two saxophones and Smith's drums. The imbalance in the mix was unfortunate because there were numerous points where the piano and bass would have elevated the music had they been more audible.

Of course, there were exceptions, most notably a tune ("White Peacock," I believe it's called ) on which Smith held back, using brushes more than sticks. The sensitive dynamics gave Soskin's piano and Browne's bass the opportunity to come to the fore and add the vital textures of their instruments. As a result, the equal balance among all instruments called attention to the superior ensemble sound as well as the capabilities of individual soloists.

Steve Smith is certainly an accomplished musician, possibly one of the top drummers of our time. His show at the Bach gave the audience a tour through jazz drum legends, displaying every nuance and technique a drummer can pull from his traps. By doing so, he not only impressed with his own chops but kept the great percussion legends of the past alive, and rightfully so. At the end of the show, the audience on its feet and applauding, the band gathering together, Smith called out to the person responsible for the affair: "Thanks, Pete—thanks Pete and to all of you here in this sophisticated audience." We all had extra reason to be grateful on this afternoon.

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