CD review: Sophia Smith Quartet – Elevation 2020: Video, CD cover

Initially from St. Thomas but now based in Toronto, Canada, saxophonist, composer and educator Sophia Smith has formed her own modern jazz ensemble, The Sophia Smith Quartet, showcasing her original compositions. Her work has been compared to that of saxophonists Kenny Garrett and Chris Potter, and guitarist Pat Metheny.

This album reflects her recent experience within the Toronto music scene. In addition to her own quartet, Smith is a member of the Dennis Kwok Jazz Orchestra and the Backtrack Band.
Formed in 2017, this quartet represents a wide and diverse group of musicians from around the globe, giving Elevation a broad span of influences. These include Iranian-Canadian pianist, Amir Mehrabi and Indian drummer, Agneya Chikte.

The quartet combines a concoction of traditional jazz approaches with modern techniques resulting in dense harmony and fetching melodies.

The opening track to Elevation is titled “Bright,” perhaps in recognition to her tone. Smith delivers a catchy melody both composed and played with clear passion, channelling a folk-like influence. “Nocturne,” as one might expect, is an elegant feature capturing the sparkle of a night sky. Its unified introduction is brilliantly executed and proceeds with a faded outro.

The title track, “Elevation,” welcomes the guest appearance of tenor saxophonist Kyle Tarder-Stoll, performing alongside Smith, harmonising beautiful elongated lines before demonstrating an intimate and expressive solo. The piece concludes with a conversation between the two saxophonists trading ideas.

The inevitable ballad to be presented on this album, “Dreams of My Past,” is a great insight to the sound of Smith as she experiments with range and contour. Her own chord progressions are filled with extensive harmony and colour providing a difficult platform to perform on; but they are executed admirably. Rounded off with a moving cadenza, this track is particularly noteworthy.

Elevation captures the essence of modern jazz in the mindset of a talented and exciting new prospect that is Sophia Smith.

01. Bright
02. Meraki
03. Nocturne
04. Elevation (feat. Kyle Tarder-Stoll)
05. Dreams of My Past
06. Outlander
07. What I’m Looking For
08. Ultramarine

Sophia Smith – Alto Saxophone
Amir Mehrabi – Piano
Sam Fitzpatrick – Bass
Agneya Chikte – Drums

Elevation | Sophia Smith Quartet

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