The old Blue Note company had a well deserved reputation for seeking out the finest of the new, young instrumentalists. Lee Morgan, Hank Mobley and Freddie Hubbard are just three of the best that come to mind.
Tommy Smith may not be in that league yet but he is coming along nicely. He has a way of caressing a melody softly and then suddenly upping the volume several notches, increasing the tempo and roaring through several choruses of supercharged improvisation.
He is winsome and lyrical on My Old Flame with Froman’s brushes wispy and featherweight behind him. Mil Dew is taken at a killing pace with the rhythm section fighting to keep up but the leader seems able to inject plenty of individual expression into this Johnny Griffin opus. Smith can be creative at any tempo.
The standards receive fresh treatment here with sterling support from the rhythm men generally and Doky in particular. Skylark, Secret Love and My Old Flame demonstrate his inventive skills and fine sense of dynamics over a range of differing material. Blacken Blue is Smith’s version of the blues with everybody digging into the stock phrases and regurgitating them. This sort of thing really needs to come naturally and is the least effective track. Tommy’s other originals here are worthy of study and overall this is a bright, varied and enjoyable set.
Star Eyes; Speak Low; Sky Lark; September Song; Blacken Blue; Mil Dew; You’ve Changed; My Secret Love; Night & Day; My Old Flame; Julia; Lover; Dream Scapes (part I); Silent But Deadly; Dream Scapes (part 2) (56.56)
Tommy Smith (ts); Niels Lan Doky (p); Mick Hutton (b); lan Froman (d). Oslo, January 1991.
(Blue Note CDP 7964522)