Will_smith-listen_span3
December 2000

Will Smith Quartet and Company
Listen
Hether

When the Texas-based saxophonist known simply as Topaz tells you to Listen, you would do well to open an obliging ear. On his exploratory, intensely rhythmic second album, Topaz takes '70s funk and soul, world beat textures, fusion elements and everything in between to create a sometimes startlingly original voice. You never know where Topaz's bright, earthy tenor sax tones will take you. Where "Rez" downshifts from the moody spirituality of a sitar intro to blisteringly heady, drum workout fusion (with modern mute trumpet breaks for good measure), "Peyote Eyes"'s complex, cascading arrangement highlights crying violin that would make Peter Gabriel proud. "Dharma"'s retro-soul mystery is marked by a wailing, ragtimelike horn intro, and "The Emperor" pits soul-styled skittering bass and throaty staccato sax against rolling, dreamy piano for a steamy feel. As a player, Topaz makes each horn hit meaningful, whether busting low tones through a laid-back, Steely Dan atmosphere on "Let Go" or hitting sharp Latin corners on the album's knuckleball title track.

Originally published in December 2000
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