Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Walter Smith III - III (Criss Cross, 2010)

Walter Smith III is a rock solid tenor saxophone player with a nice modern-mainstream conception of the music, making him a fine fit for the Dutch label Criss-Cross and their hard bop centered aesthetic. He is supported on this album by a nice cross section of hard-hitting talent: Jason Moran on piano, Joe Sanders on bass and Eric Harland on drums. Trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire sits on on several tunes as well. "Working Title" and "Highschoolish" come out swinging with the band establishing an uptempo groove and riding it well. Sanders and Harland develop a nice rapport on the bottom, and Moran is just wonderful in any situation, whether as a leader or a sideman. Smith himself has a strong and deeply ingrained tone, soloing with authority on the faster performances. The group moves into milder terrain with an album ending trio of songs, "Henya" by Akinmusire, "Moranish" which features some nicely subtle and direct work from the man himself and another Smith original, "Goodnight Now," which ends the album in a peaceful and gentle fashion. This was a well played modern mainstream jazz album, that draws on elements of the music's history while allowing the unique personalities of the individual musicians to shine through. III - Amazon.com

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