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Q&A: Nate Smith on KINFOLK: Postcards From Everywhere

Melding edgy soul-jazz and personal history

Nate Smith (photo by Laura Hanifin)
Nate Smith (photo by Laura Hanifin)
Nate Smith (photo by Laura Hanifin)
Nate Smith (photo by Laura Hanifin)

There’s always been a serious sense of groove in Nate Smith’s drumming. Whether navigating the heady rhythms of Dave Holland’s bands, propelling the electric explorations of Chris Potter’s Underground or meshing jazz and R&B behind singer José James, Smith’s playing fluidly intermingles the soulful and the intricate. On his long-awaited leader debut, KINFOLK: Postcards From Everywhere (Ropeadope), he adds a touch of the personal to that tantalizing mixture.

Carving a distinctive path through 21st-century soul-jazz, KINFOLK brings together a diverse roster from both worlds, setting the likes of Holland, Potter, guitarist Lionel Loueke and saxophonist Jaleel Shaw next to guitarist-producer Jeremy Most and singer Amma Whatt to create a unique, eclectic mash-up. As the name implies, the album takes inspiration from an expanded notion of family, both blood (Smith’s parents can be heard telling the family’s narrative) and musical. Over a mocktail in Philadelphia, not far from where he was due to perform with James, the drummer, 42, chatted about his album’s blend of jazz, R&B and history.

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