Learn How

We need your help in 2018

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz is looking for readers to help fund our 2018 projects that directly support jazz. You can make this happen by purchasing ad space or by making a donation to our fund drive. In addition to completing every project (listed here), we'll also hide all Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!

5

Enoch Smith Jr.: The Quest: Live at the A.P.C.

Jim Trageser By

Sign in to view read count
The Church has long been a cornerstone of African-American cultural identity, as well as musical inspiration. Gospel is the third leg of African-American music, coming of age alongside jazz and blues in the early part of the 20th Century.

Pianist Enoch Smith Jr. has managed to keep feet in two of those worlds. As music director at Allentown Presbyterian Church in Pennsylvania, Smith works with the house band for each week's praise selections.

But he's also released a series of well-received jazz albums.

His latest, The Quest: Live at the APC, finds Smith fronting two different trios with two different vocalists—but finding very similar results: Praise music given a jazz arrangement, and performed in a jazz vein.

The songs are mostly originals by Smith, with the best of them able to stand alongside some of the best jazz compositions ever. It's not a wholly consistent set of tunes, though, with some that are quite average.

"Wheels Up" is a straight-ahead post-bop number with the kind of memorable hook that invites others to interpret this composition in the years to come. Smith's assertive piano lead is backed sympathetically by bassist Mimi Jones and drummer John Davis. In his aggressive use of right hand to flesh out the melody, with the left hand providing punctuation and emphasis, Smith shows some strong Basie influences—albeit a far more musically verbose version!

The opening track, "Searching for God," is pure jazz—despite the title. It features a spare theme, only a few bars long, but it's a fascinating listen as Smith and bassist Noah Jackson come at it from a variety of angles in both subsequent verses and in extended extrapolations. Here, Smith's playing is equally distributed to both hands, and toward the last third of the song as the intensity heats up, he's into full Art Tatum / Mike Wofford territory.

The title track opens with a spiraling cascade on piano before Smith slows it down and begins exploring the melody. Equal parts introspective and spirited, the tune is much like "Searching for God"—the basic framework is fairly simple, yet has more than enough there for the band to spend four and a half minutes exploring without ever sounding bored or repeating themselves.

The vocal tracks don't work as well as the instrumentals. Both Sarah Elizabeth Charles and Emily Braden have strong voices, but don't ever quite seem to click with the band. It's competent and pleasant, but doesn't make that leap to magic that "Wheels Up" and "Searching for God" find.

Despite its uneven spots, this is a nice discovery of a commercially underknown talent clearly serving his faith community with love and talent.

Track Listing: Searching for God; Open Your Eyes You Can Fly; With Me Intro; With Me; Creator; Home; Jesus Loves Me; The Quest: Love Lude; Wheels Up; Jesus Loves Me (Alt. Take).

Personnel: Enoch Smith Jr.: piano; Mimi Jones: bass; Noah Jackson: bass; John Davis: drums; Andrew Atkinson: drums; Sarah Elizabeth Charles: vocals; Emiliy Braden: vocals.

Title: The Quest: Live at the A.P.C. | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Self Produced

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Roppongi CD/LP/Track Review Roppongi
by Mark Sullivan
Published: January 19, 2018
Read Is Life Long? CD/LP/Track Review Is Life Long?
by Mark Corroto
Published: January 19, 2018
Read Contra la indecision CD/LP/Track Review Contra la indecision
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: January 19, 2018
Read Vessel in Orbit CD/LP/Track Review Vessel in Orbit
by Don Phipps
Published: January 19, 2018
Read Pulse/Quartet CD/LP/Track Review Pulse/Quartet
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: January 19, 2018
Read OR CD/LP/Track Review OR
by Geno Thackara
Published: January 18, 2018
Read "The Late Set" CD/LP/Track Review The Late Set
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: November 14, 2017
Read "Wobbly Dance Flower" CD/LP/Track Review Wobbly Dance Flower
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: September 22, 2017
Read "Left Right Left" CD/LP/Track Review Left Right Left
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: May 21, 2017
Read "Last Minute Panic" CD/LP/Track Review Last Minute Panic
by Ian Patterson
Published: December 18, 2017
Read "Swiss Radio Days, Vol. 40 - Zurich 1959" CD/LP/Track Review Swiss Radio Days, Vol. 40 - Zurich 1959
by Chris M. Slawecki
Published: June 7, 2017
Read "Trandans" CD/LP/Track Review Trandans
by Karl Ackermann
Published: April 20, 2017