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The Soundtrek Sessions by PBT

There are certain times in people’s lives when the stars are in perfect alignment, and one of those times for Kansas City musicians was the 1990’s, which marked a renaissance of jazz there, certainly less noted that that of 1930’s Kansas City but nonetheless important. For that was a time when people like the now-becoming-famous Karrin Allyson, Mike Metheny, Claude "Fiddler" Williams, Danny Embrey, Rod Fleeman, Bob Bowman and last but not least Paul Smith clicked. Some of the people in the Kansas City jazz community arrived there from other cities, Bowman from Los Angeles for example, and a scene developed. Suddenly, Concord Jazz noticed what was going on there after Allyson had the chutzpah to present her talents to Carl Jefferson and asked to be signed to the label. Fortunately, Jefferson let Allyson choose her musicians, and she remained loyal to her friends who performed with her around town and who felt like musical soulmates.

No doubt the reason you may have heard of Karrin Allyson lately, even if you hadn’t before, is that she moved to New York in 2000 and has attained a higher profile on Concord. Now she is backed by some of that jazz center’s top musicians like James Carter, John Patitucci or Mulgrew Miller. But that doesn’t mean that Kansas City’s jazz scene stalled. Some of the musicians heard on seven of Allyson’s early Concord CD’s are still there--and actually are still well-known locally, forever busy with gigs are they. Modesty prevents them for claiming the attention they deserve. For not only are they exceptional musicians, but also they’re down-to-earth nice guys who show a real interest in the people they meet, as if they were your next-door neighbors.

In order to document their once-in-a-lifetime artistic camaraderie, PBT (that is, PAUL Smith, BOB Bowman and TODD Strait) have recorded their first CD as a trio, The Soundtrek Sessions, and naturally some of their friends drop in to play.

The cohesion of the group is evident from the first number, " "I’ve Never Been In Love Before," Strait lightly kicking off the tune with brushes before Smith comes in with a stop-time interpretation before letting it all flow at the bridge. Always in control and sometimes illuminating the harmonic dark corners of a tune, such as on "Estaté," PBT obviously performs for the sheer enjoyment of performing. The fact that they are able to share their thoughts and feelings with audiences makes their work even more satisfying--even though, no doubt, they would be performing on their own because of the pleasure it brings. "Estaté" is telling. Bowman starts the tune with a haunting bass presentation of the melody, and, never accelerating or attaining unnecessary ornamentation, Smith comes in full tremolo, casting another perspective on the tune.

Once the guests stop in, the fun continues. Mike Metheny, who assisted in the production of the CD, plays EVI in unison with Smith on his brother’s tune, "All Pat’s Things," a soaring variation on the chord changes of "All The Things You Are." On "You Stepped Out Of A Dream," Metheny plays muted cornet in effortless flight. Allyson sings "Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me," reminding her friends of what they’re missing because of their separation by distance. For she recalls their earlier work, her arresting voice once again accompanied professionally and respectfully by those modest musicians. Guitarists Rod Fleeman and Danny Embrey (who works with Allyson on her latest CD, In Blue,) exhibit the gorgeous sound and craftsman-like solos that should have gained them much wider recognition by now.

However, PBT isn’t looking for recognition. They’re more interested in continuing to play, to entertain and to enjoy the time they have together.

That’s not to say that they wouldn’t sell you a copy of The Soundtrek Sessions. Anyone who is interested in the unique jazz scenes found in cities throughout the United States (as opposed to the incorrect assumption that New York City jazz is the most worthy), would find The Soundtrek Sessions of interest. It represents more than a regional jazz scene: It represents close communication among talented professionals, and among friends.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: PBT
  • CD Title: The Soundtrek Sessions
  • Genre: Straight-Ahead / Classic
  • Year Released: 2001
  • Record Label: PBT Jazz
  • Tracks: I’ve Never Been In Love Before, All Pat’s Things, Bewitched Bothered And Bewildered, Nobody Else But Me, Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me, Knobtown, Estaté, You Stepped Out Of A Dream, Toley, Liz Anne, Flor de Lis, Juicy Lucy
  • Musicians: Paul Smith (piano, keyboards, synthesizers); Bob Bowman (bass); Todd Strait (drums) Karrin Allyson (vocals); Mike Metheny (EVI, cornet); Gary Sivils (cornet); Danny Embrey, Rod Fleeman (guitar); David Hungate (trombone, guitar)
  • Rating: Four Stars
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