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As we all know there are no live gigs taking place in the immediate future. However, any links to jazz streaming that are deemed suitable - i.e. with a professional approach - will be considered for posting.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

CD Review: Tommy Smith Quartet - Embodying the Light

Tommy Smith (tenor); Pete Johnstone (piano); Calum Gourlay (bass); Sebastiaan de Krom (drums).
(Review by Lance).
I'd become so used to thinking of Tommy Smith and the SNJO as being joined at the hip, and I use the word advisedly, that I'd almost forgotten what a formidable player he was in a small group setting. This tribute to John Coltrane puts the record straight.
He is to Scottish Jazz what Robbie Burns was to Scottish Poetry. With Smith, the best laid schemes of mice and jazzmen don't gang aft agley. In fact, on this disc, they don't gang agley at all. Over the 50 years since 'Trane ascended he's had many disciples but few, if any, have absorbed the complete canon as well as Scotland's own Trane. From the barnstorming Prestige/Blue Note period to the spiritual searching of the Atlantic/Impulse years Smith has it nailed. Not in a cloning manner but in a very personal way.

The opener, Transformation, a Smith original, sets the stall out with a Giant Steps-like blast that lasts forever and yet still didn't seem long enough!
Coltrane's Dear Lord is shorter. A hymn that, in the eye of an unbeliever, would be classed as a ballad. Believer or infidel, it's still 3 minutes of beauty.
Embodying the Light, another Smith original, has a familiar sequence that features Gourlay and Johnstone before Smith's grand entrance. He's like a bull in a china shop with the difference being that the porcelain remains unbroken, maybe enhanced!
Naima, one of Trane's 'signature dishes' is given 'signature' treatment by Smith. Amazingly Tommy was born on the day that 'Trane died and this was recorded 50 years later on the very same day. Who says there aren't mystical forces that guide our destiny?
Resolution's full of eastern promise. Johnstone resists the call to board the next flight to Mumbai and instead, heads off to JFK where, upon landing, takes a cab down to the Village Vanguard. Smith joins him - they take the scenic route.
The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost from the 1966 Meditations album wasn't intended to be a disco hit and it wasn't. Not even at the church social. However, in Jazz Heaven, I'm sure both JC's have given TS their blessing - it's quite incredible.
Summertime - when in doubt, play Summertime; just don't sing it. Tommy doesn't sing it but he does swing it as do his clansmen.
Embodying the Darkness, Smith's sequel to the title track touches on 'Trane's Sheets of Sound or, as one unbeliever used to say to me, Sounds of Sheet. de Krom shines a light on the darkness that avoids you stepping in the...
Transition another tour de force from Smith, more power piano from Johnstone (also a member of award winning band Square One who impressed listeners at both the Ushaw Festival and at a JNE gig at the Bridge Hotel last year) rounds off a truly great album.
I deliberately didn't listen to the Coltrane versions, Naima was the only one I knew, I didn't want any preconceived ideas and, whatever, this album stands on its own 8 feet.
Highly recommended.
Lance.

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