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Louis Smith: The Bopsmith

This is an enjoyable album of first-class modern bebop. Trumpeter Smith, who, according to Mark Gardner’s CD notes, has been recording for SteepleChase for 22 years, is a refined player who combines the jubilant flourish of Clifford Brown with the straightforward lyricism of Kenny Dorham-the trumpeter he most resembles stylistically. Smith has a pleasant, compact tone and an ample reservoir of ideas. Former Thelonious Monk saxophone competition winner Jon Gordon blows Bird-inflected alto, although his concept, while undeniably hot, is overall more serene, less incendiary than Parker’s.

The New York rhythm section, comprised of veteran pianist Michael Weiss (formerly with Johnny Griffin and others), bassist Jay Anderson and drummer Joe Farnsworth, burns on uptempo numbers such as the Jerome Kern-Dorothy Fields chestnut “The Way You Look Tonight”-here wrongly credited to Victor Young and Ned Washington-and simmers on ballads, including an inspired “For Heaven’s Sake.” Farnsworth, from a talented musical family that includes tenor saxophonist and trombonist John, and the late tenor and baritone saxophonist James, combines the drive of Art Blakey with the spontaneity of Roy Haynes. Recommended for bop fans.

Originally Published