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Louis Smith Quintet: Louisville

Louis Smith’s Louisville (Steeplechase) is a no-frills, straightahead exercise in postbop. Smith and altoist Jon Gordon provide an excellent front line, with tight playing on heads, backed effectively by pianist Michael Cochrane, bassist Calvin Hill and drummer Jeff Hirshfield. The tune selections show imagination, from the neglected (Charlie Parker’s “Buzzy”) to the familiar (“Scrapple From the Apple”) to the in-between (Dizzy Gillespie’s “Algo Bueno,” better known as “Woody ‘n’ You”). Smith has a penchant for ballads with interesting changes (“For All We Know” and “I’ll Close My Eyes”), including a reverent reading of Billy Strayhorn’s lovely “Isfahan.” The lone original is Smith’s “Ande,” an uptempo reworking of the changes to “Indiana” that allows him to show that at 73 he’s lost none of his fluidity, none of his improvisational skill and none of his ability to swing at any tempo.

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