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.