The joyful freedom of Ferde Grofé’s ‘On the Trail’ captures precisely the intended spirit of Walter Smith III’s new album Twio. Collaborating closely with established colleagues in double bassist Harish Raghavan and drummer Eric Harland, the Texas-native, California-based tenor saxophonist & composer presents his own illuminating vision of the saxophone trio while also inviting, along the way, guest appearances by Joshua Redman (tenor saxophone) and Christian McBride (double bass).
Working and touring for the last fifteen years, playing multi-layered compositions in different configurations with artists such as Terence Blanchard, Roy Haynes, Sean Jones, Ambrose Akinmusire and with his own bands, Smith also began to revisit classic jazz songs. He elaborates: “I would try and alter tunes quite radically by rearranging, reharmonizing and altering meters to a point where I was barely playing the original song; but realized that I was confusing the point of playing the songs, so I began to interpret them more directly, as they were first meant to be played. For this album, out of around twenty recorded songs, I chose nine pieces that I have a particular relationship with and have always loved playing, including some which are maybe less frequently heard”.
While that concept appears straightforward, this recording (the saxophonist’s fifth as leader) reveals much about the ultra-confidence and musicality which these established players bring to the table, entering the studio to intuitively share ideas and discover uncharted paths. Taking sparkling dual-tenor feature ‘Contrafact’ as an illustration (crafted around ‘Like Someone in Love’, but in a five meter), Smith explains: “I simply sent Josh the melody and we showed up and played... With no rehearsal, it was just ‘OK, here we go’; and that’s what I wanted for this project – just fun and live; an open sound without a chordal instrument defining the harmony, rhythm or direction. I had ideas for endings, for example, but on once instance after I had said to Christian, “We’ll close it like this”, when we got to that point he did something different which was perfect because it helped the music feel loose. We were all receptive to that organic process”.
Be The First To Review This Product!
Help other Birdland Records users shop smarter by writing reviews for products you have purchased.