Depending on how you interpret the word ‘casual’, this might be one way in which the music returns to a relaxed, laid back state

Blue Note: 00602448866219

Walter Smith III: tenor saxophone; Taylor Eigsti: piano; Matt Stevens: guitar; Harish Raghavan: bass; Kendrick Scott: drums; Ambrose Akinmusire: trumpet; James Francies: Fender Rhodes

Recorded by Chris Allen at Sear Sound, New York, N.Y.

There is something about Walter Smith III’s playing that makes him a perfect recording artist for Blue Note. The effortless way in which his music always swings, the ease with which he can switch from complex post-bop to complex bop phrasing in the same tune, and the clarity of his tenor combine to celebrate the history of the label and the stamp his authority on its future.

That this is his first recording for the label feels more of an oversight on their part than a transformation for him.

While much of the music has the warmth and passion of bop, one of the most moving pieces is the band’s cover of a Kate Bush song, ‘Mother Stands for Comfort’, track 5.

This involves the repetition of a melody with the simplicity of a nursery rhyme or folk song. Towards the end of this piece the rhythm shifts into something approaching a South African jive on bass, with the saxophone toying with the melody but never disrespecting or dismantling it.

The whole 4 minutes or so of the piece is hypnotic. Following this, the band burst into ‘Quiet Song’, which is anything but and which blends jazz-fusion guitar playing with a double time stomp.

An excellent example of the care with which Smith composes his music can be heard in ‘Amelia Earhart Ghosted Me’, track 8, in which the double attack of trumpet and saxophone chase frentic drums around a slightly unsettling two note piano line that repeats from the opening to an ending the draws the soloists into its calming logic.

Depending on how you interpret the word ‘casual’, this might be one way in which the music returns to a relaxed, laid back state. Each of his previous albums (riffing on the word ‘casual’ in their titles) have been very well received, and the list of artists that he has played with is a daunting who’s who of jazz.

On this album, he is joined by the band from 2014’s ‘Still Casual’, sounding fresher and tighter than ever.