Linn Records | 1999
featuring Tommy Smith (tenor & soprano saxophone), James Genus (acoustic bass), John Scofield (guitar), Clarence Penn (drums)
- El Nino
- Hubba Hubba
- Rain Dance
- Dr Sco
- Touch Your Toes
- Amazing Grace
- Blacken’ Blue
- The Blues Blew Blue
- Eany Meany Miny Mo
- Dr Smith
The Herald — Smith dug into his long-aquired jazz resources to reveal yet further depths of authority, with the urge to stretch a tune to its limits tempered by a warmth of feeling and a bluesy sense of communication.
Such has been the often ephemeral nature of Tommy Smith’s many bands over the years that it’s almost inevitable that the group he assembled to promote his latest album, Blue Smith, contains, aside from the saxophonist himself, only one member of the group, bassist James Genus, which recorded it. The again, such are the circles Smith moves in these days that swooping pianist Dave Kikoski for guitarist John Scofield and switching drummers, Greg Hutchinson for Clarence Penn, meant no dilution of the album’s New York keenness in its transfer to the concert platform. True to the title, Blue Smith finds Smith exploring one of jazz’s most fundamental ingredients in a manner some distance removed from the Jan Garbarek-like austerity he has previously embraced. With his Big Apple-based rhythm section providing springy, elastic, and, in Kokoski’s case, sometimes urgently percussive impetus, Smith dug into his long-acquired jazz resources to reveal yet further depths of authority, with the urge to stretch a tune to its limits tempered by a warmth of feeling and a bluesy sense of communication. The Garbarek-styled Rain Dance, played on soprano to sparse accompaniment, provided a reminder of Smith’s European leanings and a contrasting bucolic interlude in an otherwise distictly urban session. With Hutchinson at his flexible, irresistable best, the quartet maintained a groovy momentum during pieces such as the skittish Dr Sco and the new Orleans boogaloo of Hubba Hubba. On disc these are fairly succinct but they lent themselves here to some prolonged, inventive examinations examinations, not least from Kikoski, an angular, awkard-looking presence on the piano stool but, as he’s proved over here before, a dynamic, stirring force on the keyboard.
HMV Choice — At the remarkably young (for a jazzer) age of 32, Scots saxophonist Tommy Smith unleashes his 15th album. Bluesmith’s retrospective feel is due to both his seizing on the blues for inspiration (though 12-bar fanatics beware: this is pure hardcore jazz), and e reunion with master guitarist John Scofield, who guested on Smith’s first Blue Note label release a decade ago. Smith’s looked back to leap forward, and these 11 challenging cuts suggest more to come.
The Sunday Post — Tommy Smith’s new CD Blue Smith is well up to his high standards, with great jazz inspired by the blues. It’s out now on Linn Records.
Rough Guide — Flourishing on his current label after a brief spell with Blue Note, Scottish saxophonist Tommy Smith takes a break from his recent more concept-orientated approach to recording on this pleasingly informal yet utterly professional New York session. After his thorough-composed suites, collaborations with poets and ventures into smooth balladry and classical music, an album devoted to original blues – ringing the changes between funky shuffles, dreamy smooches, easy lopes and raunchy bustles – allows Smith the relax and stretch out in world-class company. His cultured, elegant sound blends well with John Scofield’s multi-textured guitar work, and the rich variety of the material makes this Smith’s most immediately appealing album for some time.