Fresh Sound New Talent
It's a little hard getting a handle on Joe Smith or his new record Happy (Fresh Sound New Talent). There are no real liner notes with the CD, just feltmarker drawings, thanks and credits. Smith's Web site is no help either. So, even though this is a new group of virtually unknown younger players, they must assume that everything worth knowing about them is in the music, right? Hmm, so what can we tell? Well, the title track is reminiscent of 1960s' Blue Note crossover tunes with some off-kilter changes. Another Smith original, "Duet Now," may not be jazz but it's improvised, sounds vaguely Asian and swings. "Sing a Song" by bassist Giulia Valle is in 7/8 and reminiscent of Ornette Coleman's haunting "Lonely Woman." Tenor saxophonist Bill McHenry, the featured soloist on this disc, contributes his own "Time," with its smeary melody and ragged unisons, and trumpeter Benet Palet digs in on "Nic's Night," which starts conventionally, then rocks out after the drum solo. Smith and cohorts then wrap things up quite nicely with the hip, furry blues, "Funny Bunny." OK, so some of the titles may be a bit too cute and there's no real context to help new listeners understand, but this is a group that plays pretty well, shows real promise and bears watching.