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Richard Smith: First Kiss

One might expect guitarist Richard Smith to have picked up a thing or two from his years of touring with sax idol Richard Eliot-and on First Kiss (Heads Up HUCD 3042; 43:41) that proves both good and bad news. The bad news is that Smith continues to play in a “sideman” voice-light-touch tuneful, but muted and undistinctive. Compounding this problem is the variety of urban-styled rattle grooves (on the glossy title track) and synthesizer-sludge backgrounds (on a sticky cover of Luther Vandross’ “Never Too Much”), present for Eliot-like sensuality, but which ultimately crowd the mix and pull focus off the lead. The good news is that Smith, like Eliot, has a good instinct for melody, and on more spacious pieces (the moody “Midnight Run” with Peter White, and the snappy “Put it Where You Want It”) steps out on some spindly runs.

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