Jazz@Rochester Picks for XRIJF 2012: Roy Haynes Fountain of Youth Band
Jazz@Rochester Picks for XRIJF 2012: Gregoire Maret Quintet

Jazz@Rochester Picks for XRIJF 2012: Tommy Smith & KARMA

Tuesday, June 26th, Xerox Auditorium at Xerox Plaza @ 6:30 and 9:00 pm

Tommy Smith imageHailed by critics as the toughest and most creative group of his career, saxophonist Tommy Smith’s KARMA leads a band of virtuosic musicians on a deeply grooving acid jazz adventure that draws on influences from around the world. The band features Tommy Smith (saxes, shakuhatchi, synth), Kevin Glasgow (electric bass), Steve Hamilton (piano, synth), and Alyn Cosker (drums). Born in Edinburgh in 1967, Tommy Smith won best soloist and best group titles at Edinburgh International Jazz Festival at the ripe old age of 14, and recorded his first album at a mere 15. After studying at Berklee College of Music, Smith joined Gary Burton's group and toured worldwide. He signed to Blue Note Records in 1989 and then formed his own record company, Spartacus, on which he has now released 24 CDs as a leader. His many compositions include four saxophone concertos, the symphonic work Edinburgh for Edinburgh Youth Orchestra, The Morning of the Imminent for Dame Cleo Laine and Sir John Dankworth, the Glasgow Jazz Festival commission Beasts of Scotland, and a series of large scale works, including Planet Wave, Beauty and the Beast, Torah and the world's first meeting between jazz and Japanese taiko drumming, The World of the Gods, for the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra, which he had directed since 1995. In June 2010, Smith was awarded a professorship by the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, where he is artisic director of jazz. 

The KARMA project is somewhat of a departure for Smith. As John Fordham wrote in the UK Guardian:

Smith can play the daylights out of full-on post-bop or explore north-Euro ambiance, but this is a hard-hitting fusion album—one that sounds pretty familiar at first, with its hammering backbeats (from the ferocious Alyn Cosker), slick unison choruses and Headhunters keyboard and bass guitar effects. But Smith is much too smart for the obvious, and this set for what he calls his "grunge band" turns out to be a rare splicing of rich-toned, pipe-like themes, fiercely guttural up-tempo tenor improv, Arabic and Irish music, tight grooving that suggests Weather Report or Chris Potter's Underground band, and some haunting atmospherics from his shakuhachi bamboo flute. Smith's compositions are way ahead of the usual slam-bang fusion forays, and the sombrely pensive Star (based on an Irish folk song) is a great sax-ballad performance.

Here is a promotional video from Smith's site about Karma:

And here is the band playing Karma live at the Capstone Theatre, Liverpool, to give you a taste of the live set in a setting similar to what you'll see here:

Check out my other picks for 2012 XRIJF as they come out on the blog or by clicking on the “XRIJF Picks” Category in the middle column

This post was originally published on JazzRochester.


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