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Paul Smoker Quartet: Standard Deviations

Paul Smoker is certainly an impressive trumpeter. He has a sound and style that are individual and readily identifiable-short jagged bursts or long abstract statements, all with a well defined brassy edge. He works well here with guitarist Steve Salerno, a very interesting player who likes to alter his sound until it’s like an organ or synthesizer at times. Cellist Tomas Ulrich and drummer Jay Rosen are a most unusual “rhythm” (if that’s even the right term) team. Ulrich brings a lot of varied bowing sounds to bear, including frenetic scamperings and slow-moving lines laden with vibrato and overtones.

The program here looks like mainstream on paper but sounds so out that these guys are being generous paying publishing on the standards they take off from. “Beyond the Blue Horizon” and “Poinciana” are but referred to melodically, and it seems as if the titles are used impressionistically (a stormy “Stormy Weather” or quiet “Speak Low”) as much as actual tunes or progressions. But the group playing is cohesive and consistently rewarding, if not as accessible as the track listing might lead one to expect. A solid and unique free jazz entry.

Originally Published