Reviews that mention Paul Smoker
February 12, 2011
Live at the Knitting Factory Vol. 1 (with Marshall Allen)
Porter Records PRCD 4051
Live in Paris
NoBusiness Records NBCD 16
By Ken Waxman
Recorded almost exactly seven years apart, these high-class discs illuminate drummer Lou Grassi’s hard-hitting yet rhythmically sophisticated style in two advanced group contexts. At home with styles ranging from ragtime to free form, Grassi advances any project in tandem with other players, never drawing undue attention to himself.
A welcome document involving the drummer’s long-constituted – since 1995 – Po Band, Live at the Knitting Factory features flutist/saxophonist Marshall Allen, linchpin of the Sun Ra Arkestra, guesting with the 2000 version of the group. Besides Grassi, trumpeter Paul Smoker, trombonist Steve Swell and clarinettist Perry Robinson are featured along with the late bassist Wilber Morris. That same year, Grassi hooked up with three other mature players to form the Nu Band. Live in Paris, recorded in 2007, demonstrates the close cooperation which has allowed it to flourish. Although each Nu Band member is a leader in his own right – as are Po Band’s participants – the CD’s extended tracks demonstrate the group’s collegial if not musical harmony. Mercurial reedist Mark Whitecage and fiery brass man Roy Campbell have an ideal setting for their contrapuntal connections, while the drummer and solid bassist Joe Fonda – who plays in as many bands as Grassi – not only keep the music on an even keel, but solos impressively. MORE
July 26, 2004
DEAD CAT BOUNCE
Home Speaks to the Wandering
By looking sideways for inspiration to sounds that encompass the brass band tradition, intricate African rhythms, plus hearty helpings of modern jazz and pure improv, two youngish bands have come up with noteworthy CDs that reconfirm eclecticism.
Stacked up next to one another though, JALOLU may have a slight edge over HOME SPEAKS TO THE WANDERING. Thats only because the Gambian and Ghanaian inspirations of drummer Harris Eisenstadt are less familiar than the outcome of many Dead Cat Bounce (DCB) compositions, whose voicings draw on sources like Charles Mingus and the World Saxophone Quartet (WSQ). MORE
February 16, 2004
Duocity in Brass & Wood
Cadence Jazz Records CJR 1155/56
DOMINIC DUVAL/MARK WHITECAGE
Rules of Engagement, Vol. 1
Drimala Records DR 03-347-03
Duo improvisations featuring a double bass and a horn are some of the hardest performances to realize. The challenge is compounded if the non-bass-playing partner only has a trumpets three valves and his embouchure with which to create. Thus Rochester, N.Y.-based trumpeter Paul Smoker should be complimented for sheer audacity. His double CD session of live, more than 60-minute duets with either Dominic Duval or Ed Schuller shows what can happen when two accomplished musicians strip down to the essentials and go at it with no preconceived notions. MORE
May 5, 2003
Playscape PSR #JJ111601
Knowing you limitations and working within them can sometimes be a preferable method of creativity than letting your reach exceed your grasp. At least thats what becomes clear listening to these two quartet discs, led by fine, but under-celebrated tenor saxophonists.
Denver-based Fred Hess, coordinator of jazz studies at Metropolitan Sate College, is the epitome of the journeyman reedman. Initially influenced by Lester Young, he modesty lists his current saxophone heroes as Joe Lovano, Rick Margitza, Bob Berg, Michael Brecker and the much younger Chris Potter. His background, which includes the formation of the Boulder Creative Music Ensemble with trumpeter Ron Miles, as well as work with everyone from ex-Cream drummer Ginger Baker, mainstream bassist Ray Brown and avant trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith, is easily the equivalent of those reedists. Plus his talents on tenor saxophone are equal if not superior to some of his heroes. MORE
January 2, 2003
9 Winds NWCD0263
9 Winds NWCD0231
Brass and strings figure prominently in these two discs recorded by experimenting musicians who fight the good fight for improv in cities like Chicago and Seattle, which move in and out of the jazz spotlight.
Yet sometimes it takes more than good intentions, good ideas and good technique to produce sessions that will resonate outside of a particular social and geographical area. Perhaps thats why trumpeter Jim Knodles session ends up being disappointing while drummer Damon Shorts lives up to its promise MORE