The recording has the panache and vitality of bop and blends this with the respect that a new generation of players have brought to the music.
Ubuntu Music 0119
Fraser Smith: tenor saxophone; Rob Barron: piano; Simon Read: bass; Steve Brown: drums
Recorded 28th February 2022 by Fraser Smith at Durham Sound Studios
Everything about this recording – from the line-up the tunes to the sleeve design – puts the music into that era when bop had found its feet and was settling into a straight ahead style. There are musicians still playing on the UK scene who grew up in this era and continue to ply their trade.
But what is so exciting about Smith’s quartet is the way that they have so completely immersed themselves in the rhythms and melodies that there is an authenticity to their playing what, for them, is ‘historic’ music. Recording 10 tunes to tape in a single day gives the music a freshness and directness that you from the early bop sessions.
The liner notes mention a host of US sax styles, but there is much here that echoes the ways in which UK players like Ronnie Scott or Tubby Hayes would play exuberant solos against solid rhythm sections.
When we get to ‘Iroquois’ (with more than a nod to ‘Cherokee’) Barron’s piano solo glistens and he joins a frenetic Smith to shadow the melody line in the close-out of the tune.
The title track blends chords and aspects of melody from ‘I got rhythm’ and ‘Honeysuckle rose’ (albeit in ways that disguise the tunes and allow Smith and Barron to swing their own tunes).
As well as swinging on the bop-inflected tunes, the quartet can play delightful, smokey ballads such as ‘Prisoner of Love’, track 5, on which Smith’s sax solo has a light vibrato and a depth of feeling.
Play this recording to people who have little interest in jazz and they will immediately warm to its sound and its style. This, for many people, quite simply what jazz sounds like. The recording has the panache and vitality of bop and blends this with the respect that a new generation of players have brought to the music.
Reviewed by Chris Baber