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Cecilia Smith: Leave No Stone Unturned

In her fourth Brownstone date in as many years, vibraphonist Cecilia Smith proves a worthy adventurer. A mainstream modernist with a yeasty approach ranging from the bossa-based melodism of “With Each Passing Moment” to the plaintive yet optimistic “A Glimmer of Hope for South Africa,” Smith’s melodic incisiveness is reminiscent of that of Gary Burton. Her lines breathe. Her harmonies splash and sparkle. She’s also imaginative. Her exotic take on Jimmy Rowles’ “The Peacocks,” for example, opens with an Amazonian lushness replete with bird calls.

Among a host of telling cameos is Greg Osby’s preening soprano, an apt addition to “The Peacocks.” For Frank Wilkins’ gritty “Sandbox,” Gary Bartz’s urgent soprano doubles the line with Smith before walking in space. With trumpeter Cecil Bridgewater and Bartz (on alto) added for Tadd Dameron’s “Our Delight,” we’re thrust into a Latin bop bag a la Blakey. Elements of hip-hop and reggae infiltrate the title track. Setting rhythms are pianist Wilkins, bassists Steve Kirby and Lonnie Plaxico and drummer Ron Savage. In all, a pleasant and engaging date.

Originally Published