Tommy Smith

Out of the Blue

In 1993, Smith joined Scottish label Linn Records. Reminiscence (1993), Misty Morning and No Time (1994), Azure (recorded with Jon Christensen, Lars Danielsson and Kenny Wheeler in 1995), and the hugely ambitious Beasts of Scotland (1996) all received critical as well as audience acclaim. Writing in Playboy magazine, Neil Tesser noted of Beasts of Scotland that: “Smith’s artful writing makes the ensemble sound like a petite Philharmonic.” Reviewer Chris J Walker, in the Los Angeles Jazz magazine, remarked that Smith’s strong compositional talent “vividly conveys the aura of the various wildlife that his compositions are named for.”

The Sound of Love followed. Recorded in only six hours in New York in September 1997 with the outstanding rhythm section of Kenny Barron (piano), Peter Washington (bass), and Billy Drummond (drums), it focused on the Duke Ellington-Billy Strayhorn songbook. A superb set of readings of classics by two of the foremost composers in jazz history, the album reached number 20 in the American Gavin Jazz Chart, an astounding achievement for a European jazz musician.

Released in 1998, Gymnopedie: The Classical Side of Tommy Smith, highlighted a completely different facet of Smith’s musical vocabulary. Recorded with his regular duo partner, classical pianist Murray McLachlan, the disc featured music by Satie, Bartok, Grieg and Chick Corea, and Smith’s Sonatas No 1 and No 2.

Returning to jazz and to New York the following year, Smith then recorded his final album for Linn, the tough, gritty Blue Smith, with old friend, guitarist John Scofield and his regular rhythm team, bassist James Genus and drummer Clarence Penn.