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Jasmine Lovell-Smith's Towering Poppies: Yellow Red Blue

Dan McClenaghan By

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Soprano saxophonist/composer Jasmine Lovell-Smith released her excellent debut CD, Fortune Songs in 2012, two years after her move from her native New Zealand to New York. Four years later—after studies with Anthony Braxton and a move to Morelia, Mexico—she offers a follow-up effort, Yellow Red Blue.

First rate debuts set up the expectations. Sophomore outings can disappoint through risk aversion or a wavering of artistic vision. Or they can delight via a broadening of the original vision—especially composition-wise—and a willingness to embrace risks. And shaking things up a bit doesn't hurt, either. Lovell-Smith's compositions have taken on a new depth of expression here, with a mix of erudition, beauty and approachability, showcasing her tunesmith's gift for melody alongside a deeper dig into harmony. Her debut was with her Towering Poppies quintet, with the soprano sax and trumpet front line. On Yellow Red Blue she substitutes the trumpet with Josh Sinton's bass clarinet, for a gorgeous blend of sounds. Her core group—Cat Toren on piano, drummer Kate Gentile and bassist Adam Hopkins—take their own risks inside a supremely "serve the music" mode of operation.

And add on the string quartet: Lovell-Smith, on three tunes uses Mexico's Cuarteto la Matraca, for an enchanting accentuation of the composer's ideas, injecting classical moods on the title tune and "Familia," and bold avant/modern classical sounds on "Moving Mountains," a tune that showcase's pianist Cat Toren's prickly, compelling piano trio-with-stings segment.

The year 2017 will see Jasmine Lovell-Smith return to New Zealand to pursue a Doctorate in Music Arts at the New Zealand School of Music, to augment her Master of Arts In Composition from Weslayen University. Every step in her education has enhanced and broadened her artistic vision. She is an artist with huge potential, a good deal of it already realized with Fortune Songs and Yellow Red Blue.

Track Listing: The Pillow Book; Wonter Widerland; Yellow Red Blue; I Had A King; Familia; Swan Song; Moving Mountains; Song For May.

Personnel: Jasmine Lovell-Smith: soprano saxophone; Josh Sinton: bass clarinet; Cat Toren: piano; Adam Hopkins: bass; Kate Gentile: drums.

Title: Yellow Red Blue | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Paintbox Records

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