Circumstance (Fresh Sound/New Talent; 2006)
Anticipation (Brooklyn Jazz Underground Records; 2010)
I sometimes describe discovering music like an architect stumbling upon a cool design for a new building, a sculptor discovering a new idea for their next work or a poet inspired by events or a scene on the street to write a new prose. This is how I felt when I stumbled upon David Smith.
The Canadian born and raised trumpeter moved to New York only in the last ten years. But he has been making waves ever since as a session member on the likes of Billy Hart, Harry Connick Jr. and Tom Jones, to name a few. While this diverse array of accompaniment may seem surprising on first glance, its the bewildering accomplishment of his own material which will have you talking. A mixture of unique phrasing and inviting structures should grab fans from both sides of the music aisle (meaning new and standard jazz fans).
Emerging on the scene with Circumstance (Fresh Sound/New Talent), a bright and highly focused debut with Smith landing in a similar camp as Woody Shaw or even Dizzy Reece. The title is an immense standout with it's introspective feel and stellar delivery from Nate Radley (guitar) and some wonderful exchanges between Seamus Blake (sax) and Smith. "Tubicinate" has a fire and drive that definitely molds in a hard bop theme. Smith and Blake again have a symbiotic relationship on horns that gives the piece a real sense of urgency. Mark Ferber on drums has a number of moments that add to the vibrancy and fun nature of the tune. "Charade" shows Smith in a more relaxed, romantic structure. Smith's compositional work here allows the quintet to move fluidly and the listener gets the opportunity to really absorb each instrument. Nate Radley and David Ephross really shine through on "Charade" providing a spacious yet inviting tone.
It would be four years before Smith delivered his next outing as leader. But the wait is well worth it. Anticipation (BJU Records) is a superb and well balanced leap forward. Opening with the title track, a steady rhythm with a number complex exchanges between Smith and Kenji Omae (sax) provide a feeling of excitement and wonder for the rest of the session. Smith's lyricism is definitely something that attracted me and that is very present on "Bittersweet" in which Smith leads his quintet quietly and effectively through an emotional journey. It's a lovely number on which Smith shines and does give a performance reminiscent of Woody Shaw. His quintet fills in the palette beautifully adding a rich yet gentle tone to the track.
Smith shows he can also deliver a unique perspective on his influences as well. John Coltrane's "Satellite" (originally on Coltrane's Sound) is a piece in which Smith replaces 'Trane as the emphasis point, delivers a superb performance. Omae adds improvised moments making the piece sound fresh while still setting in the tradition. This choice of what is a rarely covered Coltrane number says a lot about the adventurous quality of Smith. Anticipation closes with "Alone", an epic piece, again showing some forward-thinking from Smith. Radley's playing is phenomenal and the arrangements gives off Spanish vibe but with some added complex changes. Great stuff.
David Smith may be known within jazz circles due to his session work but he has shown in just a short span of time that he is emerging as a creative force. His musicianship and compositions have grown and expanded in with Anticipation here's to hoping he receives a much wider appreciation that his music deserves. A great artist that was exciting to stumbling upon. Highly Recommended.