Kansas Smitty’s: We’re Not In Kansas Anymore

While retaining their signature blues feeling, the London combo add the inspirations of modern jazz, hi-life and classic cinema music

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Kansas Smitty’s were formed in 2013, a then seven-piece “group of jazz-addicted twenty-somethings who ran their own bar” in Broadway Market in Hackney (which they were sadly forced to leave during lockdown). This is their fifth studio album, and as the title suggests, it marks something of a change for the group, a progression away from their traditional Kansas-style swing towards music inspired by modern jazz, African rhythms and classic cinema.

The group’s enthusiasm for jazz and blues continues, of course, but more subtly than before, with mood dominating structure, resulting in the expansive, progressive sounds of a new, 21st-century blues.

As ever, the line-up of the band has changed, with two acclaimed trumpeters – Laura Jurd of Dinosaur and Dylan Jones from the Ezra Collective – joining the Giacomo Smith-led ranks, but the ever-present enthusiasm remains.

And again as ever, the variety and strength of the compositions stands out. The opening Bokeh has a Steve Reich-style stuttery beat to it, Sunday Davidson a touch of African hi-life, while Ghosts is a quick-paced Tuareg-infused number and Face In The Crowd draws on country blues roots.

Laura Judd proves her worth on Cha U Kao, as consistently does pianist Joe Webb, most notably on the nostalgic Memory Palace. But then this is a well-tested ensemble, one which works best collectively. And yet again, it has delivered another fine album.

Discography
Bokeh; Sunday Davidson; Face In The Crowd; Ghosts; Cha U Kao; Skyline; Memory Palace; Foxes; The Carpenter (43.06)
Giacomo Smith (as, cl); Alec Harper (ts, f); Dylan Jones, Laura Jurd (t); Joe Webb (p); David Archer (elg); Ferg Ireland (b); Will Cleasby (d). London, c.2022.
Ever Records EVER 103CD