What a joy it is to find George Cables recording again following a series of potentially career-ending health issues. Clearly, as the title of this collection of mostly trio performances suggests, the acclaimed pianist couldn’t be happier to reassert his extraordinary talents while reuniting with a pair of longtime, well-matched collaborators: bassist Essiet Essiet and drummer Victor Lewis. And the result? Dedicated to devoted fans and countless well-wishers, I’m All Smiles is charged with a sense of renewed vitality and deep gratitude.
That much is obvious from the outset. “Young at Heart,” the first of several pop standards freshened by Cables’ improvisational verve and orchestral colorings, is distinguished by bright chromaticism, a buoyant pulse, a rumbling ostinato, and Essiet’s sleek interlude. Since Cables has always favored rich harmonic designs and a broad range of dynamics, fans will likely find his approach to other imaginatively recast tunes covered here, including pieces by Wayne Shorter (“Speak No Evil”), Jaco Pastorius (“Three Views of a Secret”), and Freddie Hubbard (“Thermo”), similarly reassuring.