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January/February 2000

Will Smith Quartet and Company
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Will Smith is a big-boned tenor saxophonist, augmented by occasional soprano, out of Washington, DC, who is yet another in a continuing line of promising players from the jazz program at Howard University. A note of caution: you may find it necessary to adjust volume controls downward when the laser meets disc, as the mix is way hot. Musically speaking, Smith's passion is evident from-the-jump. He has a kind of take no prisoners approach that is full of youthful fire, though not over the top-kinda like David S. Ware after a relaxation therapy session.

A true product of the streets around him, Smith's influences emanate from disparate sources, not the least of which is hip hop-a vein he engages from deep in a jazz pocket on a rough and ready verse with the no disguise title of "When Ornithology Met Sugarhill," with guest toaster Priest da Nomad. His other foray into cautionary lessons, the title track with Ayanna Gregory's impassioned vocal, doesn't work quite as well, particularly with such an abrupt ending. Originals dominate the program, though he wisely includes "Stella by Starlight" for that legion of lazy radio programmers, bathing the chestnut in pianist James McKinney's attractive, dark piano chords on the theme statement, then blooming to an agreeable swing. He closes with a nice tenor-guitar take on Beethoven.

Originally published in January/February 2000
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