Bar code: 8427328421980
Joe Smith is back with a new CD and a new concept. His innovative approach to jazz has brought together a new group, with familiar faces. On "Melodic Workshop", Joe presents a great collection of original pieces that were presented live at the Barcelona Jazz Festival in 2003 and then recorded for Fresh Sound "New Talent". As a drummer, Joe gives some prominence to this instrument as there are not one, but two drum sets in action here, one played by Joe and the other by Jorge Rossy (Brad Mehldau Trio), who is also featured on Fender Rhodes and there is a strong rhythm section, with Guillermo Klein on piano and Chris Lightcap on bass. This is a move on from 2002's "Happy" CD (FSNT 122) in that the pieces here ebb and flow, away from a formal jazz composition and head-first into new territories.
"Melody is free and should be left alone as much as possible to move freely to its destination, unrestricted by impure influences. Rhythm is another animal. With this group I'm developing a sense of rhythm that is free from even structures (4/4 with 4 or 8 bar phrases.) The rhythm flows over a large pulse but with the freedom to digress naturally into "odd" phrases. The idea is to have so many percussive voices speaking all at once that the "1" is lost and yet everyone is moving together.
I have always been attracted to acoustic sounds from instruments but more and more I feel that what I am searching for is natural sounds. In this group are the Electric Bass and the Fender Rhodes, two electric instruments but with beautiful natural timbre. I am also interested in incorporating metallic sounds into the overall sound of the group. Sounds that are percussive.
These are the concepts behind the Melodic Workshop, but it's still just music. The great musicians that I am lucky to be able to work with create this music, make this music speak. It all comes down to playing and creating together. I plan to develop these concepts and write new material for the group. I am in no hurry and am looking forward to watching the music come alive and plan to capture the many different stages this music will travel through".
"Drummer led, with a second drummer (Jorge Rossy), two quality saxophones, keyboards and electric bass, this fits the "workshop" concept by trying to be a little bit of everything. Smartly conceived postbop, for the most part, but sandwiched inside are slower, more densely harmonic experiments, which I find less satisfying. Last song adds a vocal group, again to thicken the harmony -- again, who cares? B."
-Tom Hull, Village Voice.
"The far-reaching and wide influence of Wayne Shorter, both as a writer and performer, on the contemporary and straight-ahead jazz scene is one area of concentration to receive so little attention it boggles the mind. His ability to craft well-sculpted melodic lines and at the same time place them both within and separate from the drive of the rhythm section, is extraordinary. Further, the ways in which many of todays most forward thinking musicians such as Dave Douglas and Bill Frisell, to name just two - have taken this concept and developed their own compositional profiles as the next step in this evolution is startling and auspicious. Add to this list of Shorter stalwarts the work of master drummer/percussionist and composer Joe Smith.
Smith is a musician who performs in a manner that can truly be described as beautiful. His percussive thrust behind oft overlooked yet critically praised trumpeter John McNeils excellent This Way Out (Omnitone), sends that small ensemble, and McNeils playing in particular, into some wildly exciting and rarely traversed territory. In particular, Smiths sensitivity to find colors that both compliment and stylishly ring out from the group on slower numbers make him a musician of the highest caliber. With Melodic Workshop Smith further develops his work in this area.
Recorded in Spain following a live performance of the music at the Barcelona Jazz Festival in 2003, both aspects compositional and performance - of Smiths musical persona are aptly displayed in Melodic Workshop, his second date as a leader. As a composer his tie to Shorter is unmistakable. The two saxophone lead team of Bill McHenry and Gorka Benitez never rush through melodies and many times, just as displayed in Shorters work with Miles Davis, the two saxophonists perform identical lines slightly offset in terms of both rhythm and pitch that are in and outside, at the same time, of the rhythmic base. Smiths own words, in writing about this music on the Fresh Sound New Talent website (www.freshsoundrecords.com), reinforce this, Melody is free and should be left alone as much as possible to move freely to its destination, unrestricted by impure influences. Rhythm is another animal. This music of free rhythmic association, for want of a better term, is displayed on a number of pieces. Shroo, for example, begins with some tight and complimentary two drumset work between Smith and fellow drummer Jorge Rossy, before the twisting and meandering saxophone lines are layered on top. There is no other word to describe the end result other than beautiful. Smith adds to the above an Ahmad Jamalish harmonic flux which complements the lead lines so well you almost cant believe its possible to have everything fit so perfectly, and not, at the same time.
As a performer, Smith, who studied at both the Cincinnati Conservatory and the Manhattan School of Music, is taste personified. He calls upon Rossy to join him in duo complimentary and contrary set work on four of the eight tracks. While double set playing may work in the music of The Moody Blues and The Grateful Dead and then only because the two drummers usually play the exact same lines - it rarely works in jazz due to the individualistic/temporal/emotional nature of the music. Here, however, both drummers are so in sync with their own differing lines that you only know there are two drummers through careful listening and the reading of the credits they are that elegant in their approach to the music.
The Fresh Sound New Talent label has again released a killer recording of young musicians who all deserve greater recognition. There is not a weak performer on the disc and they play, heres that word again, beautifully. If there is a complaint it would be that the music has a general sameness to it, but when the music and musicians are this good you almost dont care.
-Thomas R. Erdmann, JazzReview.com