Walter Smith III (ts, ss), Aaron Parks, Robert Glasper (p, Fender Rhodes), Reuben Rogers, Vicente Archer (b), Eric Harland, Kendrick Scott (d), Ambrose Akinmusire (tp), Lionel Loueke (g, vcl)
Bar code: 8427328422475
After sharing the scene or recording with many jazz notables including Roy Haynes, Ralph Peterson, Roy Hargrove, Terence Blanchard, Eric Reed, Jason Moran, Rueben Rogers, Bob Hurst, Joe Lovano, Myron Walden, Lewis Nash, Eric Harland, Terri Lynne-Carrington, and a host of others, the very impressive saxophonist Walter Smith III realized at last his debut recording as a leader on the Fresh Sound New Talent label.
This magnificent work features many of his original compositions. The band is comprised of some of the best young musicians on the scene today including Aaron Parks, Robert Glasper, Lionel Loueke, Lage Lund, Gretchen Parlato, Rueben Rogers, Vicente Archer, Kendrick Scott, Eric Harland, and Matt Kilmer.
"Walter Smith has a whole lot going on here. On this programme of originals and standards, the sax player's work is often so far advanced from a harmonic standpoint (in particular) that he manages to carve out his own space in the modern mainstream idiom, and thats no mean feat in itself.
He also likes to take his time, and in these days of often hyperactive-sounding soloists, thats more than welcome, too. Hes no apostle of technical display for its own sake. This is perhaps best exemplified by his reading of Mingus Duke Ellingtons Sound Of Love, where he makes every note count while retaining his own deep musical personality. The result shows just why this area of the music continues to offer rewarding listening.
In titling his own compositions, he might have played the enigmatic card with Wooden Box (Spatula In Three), where the quartet of Smith, Aaron Parks (keys), Reuben Rogers (bass) and Eric Harland (drums) simultaneously occupies rarefied musical territory and a space rife with precedents. The musicians' intuitive feel for each others work also elevates the performance above the norm and emphasises just what a rich musical seam this can be when its mined properly.
The piano-less reading of Ornette Colemans Peace has the effect of revealing just how singular many of Coleman's early compositions remain. The fact that its played by a sax/trumpet/bass/drums quartet, all of whose members bring their own musical personalities to bear, is a tribute to the importance of musical character.
Maybe it's inevitable that promising is one of the epithets often attached to first recordings. On this occasion, however, the words casual introduction are an underselling of the richness of the musicand if indeed this is the precedent for music to come, its also evidence of richness of musical personality. Heres to the next one accordingly."
Nic Jones -All About Jazz
"Walter Smith III, a striking saxophonist, has entered the arena with this promising debut. A rising horn player, he has performed and shared the stage with a variety of musicians, including jazz veterans (Roy Haynes, Ralph Peterson), pop stars (Destinys Child, Lauren Hill), and contemporary jazz luminaries (Terence Blanchard, Jason Moran).
Like recordings by other younger artists, this disc integrates a variety of styles and influences into a jazz framework, creating an open avenue in which Smith can channel his ideas. They are carried forth by a cast of young jazz leaders who are already making their own marks, including pianist Robert Glasper, guitarist Lionel Loueke, drummer Eric Harland, and many others.
The recording touches on many different levels and styles. The sheer power of hard bop is communicated in the Sam Rivers composition Cyclic Episode, whose circuitous melody is parsed into various instrumental sections, building with a scorching tempo and incendiary solos. The cool textures of the Fender Rhodes alongside Smiths arid sax appear on Kate Song and the odd-metered Tail of Benin, where Smith alternates between natural and electronic wind effects. Theres also a wonderful cover of West African guitar sensation Lionel Louekes Bennys where Loueke contributes his unique guitar and vocals.
This aural glossary also includes the beauty of traditional sources like the rare Mingus composition Duke Ellingtons Sound of Love, where Smiths tenor is throaty and eloquent, showing empathy for the classic work. Surprisingly, instead of going for the burn, the recording continues on a mellow path with another standard and two Smith compositions that reveal his depth and arranging skills. But Smith does flex his tenor muscles, swinging hard on the Blues with bassist Rueben Rogers and drummer Eric Harland in an all-out performance workout that could only be accomplished by highly skilled jazz musicians."
Mark F. Turner -All About Jazz
"Walter Smith gets the homage-paying out of the way with the first track of this debut, a reprise of Sam Rivers' "Cyclic Episode," where Smith proves his neo-traditionalist credentials evoking all the tenor sax greats during his torrid solo. For the rest of the album, though, Smith offers his personal interpretation of jazz, putting forth one of the most unique, eclectic and forward albums (let alone debuts) of its time. "Kate's Song" and "Tail of Benin" -- the two tunes following the neo-bop opener -- sound like little else in the new-millennium jazz box. Smith writes a swooping, in-and-out arrangement for "Kate's Song," which takes a late detour into some trance/electronica before the majestic head reappears that features singer Gretchen Parlato scatting under 's soprano. "Tail of Benin" begins with Smith's soprano rigged to sound like an android from a George Lucas flick; what follows is an odd tune that jilts and cascades over a groove (laid down by bad-boy Kendrick Scott) that -- at its core -- would have a hip-hopper leanin' and rockin'. Even "Benny's," penned by guitarist Lionel Louke is the kind of song that could've been a regular ol' slow-tempo ballad, instead it builds to an inspiring crescendo, mirroring a characteristic of many of Smith's songs, which gives the album a complexity and whim that keeps it entertaining. And, perhaps most important, Smith's crew is a heavy one. Robert Glasper appears only on "Kate's Song," but turns in (yet again) a performance on the Fender Rhodes that separates him from the pack. The rest of the piano work on the album would be a disappointment, were it not for stellar work from Aaron Parks throughout (the two take an interesting simultaneous piano solo together on "Kate's Song.") Eric Harland and Scott take turns on the drums and Reuben Rogers and Vicente Archer hold down bass duties. That's the cream of the new-school crop, right there. With Smith at the helm, all that young energy can be heard on this recording, a 24-year-old musician's auspicious introduction that wasn't "casual" at all."
Vicent Thomas -All Music Guide
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