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Tommy Smith - The Sound of Love - All Music

01 March 1999
All Music
Alex Henderson
4 Stars

Jazz musicians have provided so many Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn tributes over the years that in the late '90s, one greeted an Ellington/Strayhorn homage with the question"Do we really need yet another one?" The frustrating thing was how safe many of those tributes continued to be -- instead of taking chances and turning their attention to some of Ellington and Strayhorn's lesser-known works, many players chose only the most obvious standards. That's exactly what Tommy Smith does on The Sound of Love, a relaxed Ellington/Strayhorn tribute that unites him with pianist Kenny Barron, bassist Peter Washington, and drummer Billy Drummond. Interestingly, Smith's most adventurous choice isn't by Ellington or Strayhorn - it's the very Ellingtonian Charles Mingus piece "Duke Ellington's Sound of Love." But while this album could have taken more chances, it's certainly enjoyable. A 30-year-old Smith plays with plenty of soul throughout the CD, and the captivating Barron does the same. Emphasizing ballads, Sound of Love essentially functions as mood music - seductive, evocative, lower-the-lights mood music. Smith is playing it safe this time, but he's also playing from the heart.

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