Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Capsule reviews - Tommy Smith, Chase Baird

Tommy Smith - Karma (Spartacus, 2011) Scottish saxophonist Tommy Smith is much in demand as a soloist (check his extraordinary playing on Arild Andersen’s Live at Belleville) and as a well regarded educator. Smith’s Karma (no relation to Pharoah Sanders’ free-jazz masterwork of the same name) works well, as the band with Smith: Steve Hamilton on piano, synth and tambourine, Kevin Glasgow on electric bass and Alyn Cosker on drums work well as an integrated unit. Smith has sometimes referred to this group as his “garage” or grunge” band, and that makes sense to a degree as the band investigates several moods from haunting ballads like “Land of Heroes” and “Body or Soul” to R&B tinged jazz, but Smith is at is at his best on the post-Coltrane burners, where his deep and dark tone really takes hold of the music and makes a bold statement. This is a very solid album, and Smith shows himself to be a multi-faceted musician, comfortable in many musical situations from soul to sparse to free. Karma - amazon.com

Chase Baird - Crosscurrent (Junebeat Records, 2010) Crosscurrent by saxophonist Chase Baird is another solid mainstream jazz album, featuring expressive saxophone over mainly guitar, bass & drums with just a hint of subtle electronics for added texture. Baird is accompanied by Julian Pollack on piano and electric keyboards, John Storie on guitar, Christopher Tordini on bass, Steve Lyman on drums and James Yoshizawa on percussion. They work well as a unit, particularly at speed, on “Fifth Direction” and “Crosscurrent” where the band develops a complex rhythmic state and then navigates like a slalom skier, moving deftly through the music at will. “The Traveller” and Dusk” capture the band at slower tempos, attempting to work on texture and dynamics and weave them into the music they are creating. It’s a pretty impressive statement for a young musician just beginning his career, he has excellent command over his instrument and a lot of ideas that draw from a multitude of sources. Definitely a musician to keep an eye on. Crosscurrent - amazon.com

Send comments to Tim.