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This writer first became aware of Scottish saxophonist Tommy Smith upon hearing Gary Burton’s 1987 ECM release “Whiz Kids”. Smith, a graduate and recipient of a full scholarship at the Berklee School of Music is an indisputable talent. From the onset, Smith displays remarkable maturity and uncanny savvy for such a young lad.
On “Sound of Love”, Smith tackles the Ellington/Strayhorn songbook while getting exquisite support from the estimable rhythm section of Kenny Barron (p), Peter Washington (b) and Billy Drummond (d). On this project, Smith performs with the verve and sophistication of a seasoned elder statesman. His tone, inflection and clear concise thematic statements serve Ellington and Strayhorn well. Smith is stunning on “In A Sentimental Mood” as he touches on the atmospheric nuances of Stan Getz yet Smith’s eloquent, personalized phrasing and impeccable control are evident throughout. The band’s treatment of “Isfahan” is magnificent for its bluesy, laid back approach which emits hues and tonal colors that accentuates the near sacred qualities of this Ellington/Strayhorn classic. No, this is not just another homage to Ellington and Strayhorn, Smith’s renderings and keen vision clearly exhibit the obvious notions that Ellington and Strayhorn are embedded in his soul. Pianist Kenny Barron was the perfect choice for this project. His articulate phrasing and heartfelt performances provide the anchor for Smith’s rich and multi- textured tenor sax passages. Smith’s emotional fire is quite impressive to say the least as in “Passion Flower”, where Smith performs this tune as if he were the original composer. Here, Barron’s resplendent and romantic chord progressions are enchanting and immaculately executed.
Kick back on the recliner and open that bottle of expensive wine or share the experience with your partner. “The Sound of Love” is a noteworthy release from a rising star. Clearly a 4-star effort! Highly Recommended.
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Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.