Sunday, December 16, 2007

Jimmy Smith – Straight Life (Blue Note 1961, 2007)

This historical release puts out some of the final recordings that the great organist cut for Blue Note before moving to the Verve label where he found great commercial success. While many of the Verve recordings found Smith in big band settings, this disc features him with his bread and butter trio with Quentin Warren on guitar and Donald Bailey on drums. There's nothing fancy here, this is probably representative of what you would have heard if you saw his trio in a live performance at this time. Smith's repertoire of blues, ballads and up-tempo cookers is well represented here, and while this isn't Smith's most exciting session (probably why it wound up in the vaults for so many years) there is some solid music to be found here.

Dave Leibman, et. al. - Dream of Nite (Verve, 2007)

Saxophonist Leibman documents is regular European touring group on this live recording from 2005. Backing him on this disc are Roberto Tarenzi on piano, Paolo Benedettini on bass, and Tony Arco on drums. The group is very comfortable with each other, and while Leibman can sometimes be quite exploratory in his musical flights, this disc is a rather restrained examination of melody and harmony, using compositions of his sidemen as jumping off points. The most upbeat piece of music is the opening “Unsteady” which is a pithy and smart piece of modern jazz. “Feel” stretches this way out over the course of a fifteen minute improvisation and is aptly named as the texture and patience of the composition is paramount. Miles Davis' rarely performed “Fran-Dance” from Kind of Blue receives a nice reading, with a wide open fee that pervades the entire disc.

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