Tommy Smith

Review Tommy Smith - reviewed

April
30th
2010

A rewarding and ultimately uplifting hour’s music

by Chris Parker | Vortex Jazz

Written by Tommy Smith in 1999, with Joe Lovano in mind (and performed by the great US saxophonist, with the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra, during a weekend of concerts in Scotland in February 2000), Torah is a five-part suite inspired by the Pentateuch, a portion of the Bible that informs the foundation myths of all three major monotheistic world religions.

Tommy Smith

Tommy Smith

As with another similar project, Stan Tracey’s Genesis Suite, however, the power and majesty of the music are as accessible to the secular as to the religiously inclined listener.

The whole begins with an extended orchestral fanfare with a tenor improvisation snaking through it, neatly evoking the creation myth enshrined in its subject, ‘Genesis’, and thereafter, Smith’s multi-textured, versatile saxophone playing (its moods ranging from said awed contemplation, through unease and anxiety, to resolution, as required by the texts of the various books providing Smith’s subject matter) simply rivets the listener’s attention, set off as it is by a vigorous big band centred on a subtly cohesive rhythm section pianist Steve Hamilton, bassist Calum Gourlay and drummer Alyn Cosker but also featuring the likes of saxophonist Paul Towndrow, trumpeter Ryan Quigley and trombonist Chris Grieve. Smith the instrumentalist seems able to move, at will, between the keening lyricism of, say, Jan Garbarek, the more abrasive vigour of a Lovano, and the creamy smoothness of a Johnny Hodges, and such adaptability is exactly what is required by a wide-ranging composition such as this; as a composer/arranger, he is also adept at deploying large musical forces his label’s previous issue, Rhapsody in Blue Live, and the result, on this ambitious but consistently accessible recording, is a rewarding and ultimately uplifting hour’s music.

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