Based in Bakersfield, CA, keyboardist, composer Jay Smith's second album is titled Too Many Notes via comments by his fan base, alluding to his often blazing phraseology on the 88s. Nonetheless, Smith possesses an active mind as the program boasts a cornucopia of bop, jazz fusion, Latin jazz, rock, pulsating cadences and explosive flights of fancy. At times Smith executes flashy runs while toggling between acoustic and electric keys and props up the interest or listenability factor by alternating tempos and bouncing between various mini-motifs within a given theme. Moreover, the crystalline audio soundscape enhances the band's presentation at most all levels of interplay.
Smith's homage to guitar great Carlos Santana is executed on the aptly titled, "Santana." And kudos are in order for electric violinist Patrick Contreras who keenly and perhaps rather eerily mimics Santana's wailing, sustain driven sound with the signature style inflections and screaming upper-register notes. Hence, I needed to recheck the album notes, assuming it was a guitarist, but such is not the case. Moreover, the leader's pumping block chords atop the frothy Latin pulse add momentum, and he finalizes the piece with a speedy cavalcade of chord clusters and single note soloing forays. But the plot changes during the ensemble's spin on Bob Marley's mega pop hit "I Shot The Sherriff," accelerated by the keyboardist's dynamic and sprightly synth lines.
"Static" is a keys, drums and bass trio piece, nestled in a straight-four contempo jazz vibe. Smith's fluid synth passages and 8-string bassist Jay Jay Hicks' zesty solo, including jazzy chordal maneuvers generate additional sources of interest. Yet on another trio piece "Monk This," Smith and associates dish out a springy jazz opus, often operating in the red zone with changeable grooves, sizzling breakouts and a few doses of free-bop. Otherwise, James Russell alters the flow with peppery soul-jazz sax phrasings on "Solitary," shadowed with a tender melody, and followed by Smith's lovely and resonating piano etude on the final track, "Cara's Song." Indeed, diversity and a democratic group-centric mode of attack is a prominent staple of Smith's craft amid a throng of polytonal dialogues and upbeat thematic frameworks.
Groove; Santana; Quiescent; I Shot The Sheriff; Static (Trio); Don’t Kill My Vibe (Live); Monk This (Trio); Softly As In A Morning Sunrise; Solitary; Cara’s Song.
Patrick Contreras: electric and acoustic violin (2,3,8,9); Jay Smith: keyboards, organ, left hand bass, synth; Cesaro Garasa; James Russell: alto and tenor saxophones (3,10); Jonathan Weinmann (5): drums; Fernando Montoya: electric bass (1,3,10); Jay Jay Hicks: 7 & 8 string bass (2,5,8) Marlon Mackey: vocals (6); Gary Rink: electric bass (6).