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Tommy Smith - Blue Smith - The Herald


01 August 1999
The Herald

Such has been the often ephemeral nature of Tommy Smith's many bands over the years that it's almost inevitable that the group he assembled to promote his latest album, Blue Smith, contains, aside from the saxophonist himself, only one member of the group, bassist James Genus, which recorded it.
The again, such are the circles Smith moves in these days that swooping pianist Dave Kikoski for guitarist John Scofield and switching drummers, Greg Hutchinson for Clarence Penn, meant no dilution of the album's New York keenness in its transfer to the concert platform.
True to the title, Blue Smith finds Smith exploring one of jazz's most fundamental ingredients in a manner some distance removed from the Jan Garbarek-like austerity he has previously embraced.
With his Big Apple-based rhythm section providing springy, elastic, and, in Kokoski's case, sometimes urgently percussive impetus, Smith dug into his long-acquired jazz resources to reveal yet further depths of authority, with the urge to stretch a tune to its limits tempered by a warmth of feeling and a bluesy sense of communication.
The Garbarek-styled Rain Dance, played on soprano to sparse accompaniment, provided a reminder of Smith's European leanings and a contrasting bucolic interlude in an otherwise distictly urban session.
With Hutchinson at his flexible, irresistable best, the quartet maintained a groovy momentum during pieces such as the skittish Dr Sco and the new Orleans boogaloo of Hubba Hubba. On disc these are fairly succinct but they lent themselves here to some prolonged, inventive examinations examinations, not least from Kikoski, an angular, awkard-looking presence on the piano stool but, as he's proved over here before, a dynamic, stirring force on the keyboard.
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