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Kansas Smitty's: Things Happened Here

Chris May By

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Kansas Smitty's: Things Happened Here
Kansas Smitty's is the house band at a London jazz bar of the same name. Band and bar are fronted by the American-Italian alto saxophonist, clarinetist and bass clarinetist Giacomo Smith, who with guitarist David Archer wrote most of the material on this album. The band's style embraces swing era Kansas City through to more recent styles and is chamber-jazz of elegance and substance.

The group cites Django Reinhardt, Ahmad Jamal, Claude Debussy and Brian Eno as influences, though you would be forgiven for missing the connections. On Things Happened Here, the clearest echo is that of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn. This comes in a general sense from the character of the material, Smith's Johnny Hodges-like tone on the alto saxophone and Russell Procope-like tone on the clarinet, and the voicings of a frequently used trumpet, clarinet and tenor saxophone frontline. On one track the Ellingtonian influence is so marked that it must surely be intentional: "Temple Of Bel" is a close sibling of "Blue Pepper (Far East Of The Blues)" from Ellington and Strayhorn's The Far East Suite (RCA Victor, 1967).

Conscious or not, the Ellingtonisms are delightful. So too are the occasional brushes with British composer John Barry's 1960s film soundtracks (which are more The Ipcress File than From Russia With Love), the Pat Metheny feel in passages on the title track, and the township jazz resonance in the horns on "Sunnyland" (which was written in honour of blues pianist Sunnyland Slim).

Roll all this together and—even without Reinhardt, Jamal, Debussy and Eno—you have an engaging platform. Kansas Smitty's make good use of it.

Track Listing

Riders; Dreamlane; Two Dancers; Sambre Et Meuse; Alcazar; Temple Of Bel; Sunnyland; Things Happened Here; Judgement.

Personnel

Giacomo Smith: woodwinds; Peter Marshall: trumpet; Alec Harper: saxophone, tenor; David Archer: guitar, electric; Joe Webb: piano; Will Cleasby: drums.

Adrian Cox: clarinet (6).

Album information

Title: Things Happened Here | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: Ever / !K7

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