As a drummer Jason Smith hearkens back to the days of Buddy Rich via his darting snare shots and poetically-inclined polyrhythmic fills - all performed on a small kit. With this thoroughly-happening trio jaunt, recorded at Los Angeles’ famed Jazz Bakery; Smith, British keyboardist Gary Husband and first call West Coast session ace, bassist Dave Carpenter generate an impacting musical persona. And for the uninformed, Husband is a respected progressive-rock/jazz-fusion drummer due to his supporting stints with guitar god, Allan Holdsworth and many others too numerous in scope to cite here. Yet Husband effectively toggles between acoustic piano and Fender Rhodes amid this potpourri of standards and modern jazz classics.
It’s a democratic engagement, where the respective artists enjoy abundant soloing space. On Jerome Kern’s "Way You Look Tonight," Smith lays out a peppery, up-tempo swing vamp to underscore Husband’s animated keyboard phrasings as Smith raises the pitch towards the coda with a furious sense of urgency! And one of my favorite tracks pertains to the trio’s spin on guitar-great John McLaughlin’s 1970 composition titled "Follow Your Heart." Marked by a dreamy and understated primary theme, Husband’s airy chord voicings are counterbalanced by a wah-wah drenched Fender Rhodes motif during the bridge. However, the trio surfaces as a coherent and tightly-integrated musical machine, which is starkly evidenced on the keyboardist’s multi-part comp "Three Lies." Here, the band maneuvers through punchy choruses amid somber frameworks while upping the ante with snappy rock beats and interweaving story-lines. Husband even quotes Tranes’ "Giant Steps," to complement a string of daintily executed passages and stinging right-hand lead lines.
Smith takes this train into express mode on numerous occasions. Consequently, it’s the trio’s willingness to expand, contract and refresh themes into an aggregation of sinuously constructed paths that yields additional benefits. No doubt, this outing should (in theory) garner quite a bit of interest throughout progressive-jazz circles.