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Ches Smith: A Force of Nature

The drummer-composer Ches Smith builds a reputation as bandleader and sideman

Mary Halvorson Trio (L to R): Ches Smith, John Hebert, Mary Halvorson
Ches Smith

Between August and September, drummer and composer Ches Smith went on tour with guitarist Mary Halvorson in Colombia and Portugal, performed in Brooklyn with Marc Ribot’s post-everything trio Ceramic Dog, played an NYC album-release show with pianist Matt Mitchell, toured the West Coast with reedman Ben Goldberg’s Unfold Ordinary Mind and still managed to fit in a performance with the instrumental rock band Secret Chiefs 3 at John Zorn’s Masada Marathon in New York.

Smith’s relentless schedule extends to the recording studio as well. He appears on three hotly anticipated recent releases: Illusionary Sea (Firehouse 12), by the Mary Halvorson Septet; Fiction (Pi), Mitchell’s roiling debut album of richly textured, angular duets; and Shadow Man (ECM), avant-garde saxophonist Tim Berne’s dense, atmospheric sophomore album with the quartet Snakeoil. (The latter two feature Smith’s melodic chops on vibraphone in addition to his drumming.) He also appeared on two releases earlier in the year: Hammered (Clean Feed) with These Arches, his own punk-inflected quintet, and Your Turn (Northern Spy) with Ribot’s Ceramic Dog.

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