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Friday, February 09, 2018

CD Review: Walter Smith III - TWIO

Walter Smith III (tenor); Harish Raghavan & Christian McBride (bass - 4 tracks each); Eric Harland  (drums) + Joshua Redman (tenor - 2 tracks).
(Review by Lance)
Since I heard Walter Smith III at Sage Gateshead back in 2013 I've been a fan. So much so that when I opened up the mail that had accumulated since I'd been away, this one jumped out in front leaving the other albums to fill the minor places in the race to the CD player.
My enthusiasm wasn't misplaced - it's a winner!
Ask Me Now is maybe my favourite Monk tune and here it is given a jaunty, almost whimsical treatment that takes nothing away from it.
Kern's Nobody Else But Me has Raghavan and Harland pushing the leader along. He doesn't mind at all - not judging by his solo!
On the Trail pairs Smith III with another tenor ace in Joshua Redman resulting in some non-violent sparring. Two gentlemen working out rather than two dockers on Pier 6! Still, superb playing by both.
We'll Be Together Again dispenses with bass allowing the tenorist total freedom which, whilst he accepts, doesn't take it as an opportunity to print notes at random!
I'll Be Seeing You lopes along nicely with McBride's lines inspirational and Harland dropping a few strategically placed bombs. Smith III has surely the best tenor sound since Getz I.
Adam's Apple: Wayne Shorter's composition could have been written with Walter Smith III in mind, so easily does he respond. He nails it, as does Harland with a compelling and imaginative solo.
The Peacocks: A meditative contemplative reading of the Jimmy Rowles classic before taking off for a brief flight. He returns safely.
Social Call: Gigi Gryce wrote this one and Jon Hendricks made it his. So, how would it fare without a vocal? Answer is that it's such a good tune anyway and, in the hands of Smith III and McBride, it can't fail - with or without words! Delightful!
Contrefact: Redman returns for this Smith III original based on Like Somewhat in Love. This time, the gloves are off but nobody gets hurt and maybe the honours go to McBride for his spritely solo.
Smith III elaborated on the choice of tunes: "I would try and alter tunes quite radically by rearranging, reharmonizing and altering meters to a point where I was barely playing the original song; but realized that I was confusing the point of playing the songs, so I began to interpret them more directly, as they were first meant to be played. For this album, out of around twenty recorded songs, I chose nine pieces that I have a particular relationship with and have always loved playing, including some which are maybe less frequently heard”. 
The idea worked and the end result is very worthwhile and another plaudit for Michael Janisch and the team at Whirlwind. 
Lance.
The album was released today (February 9) on Whirlwind Recordings WR4718. 

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