May 28, 2024

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Perry Smith Quintet – New Angel 2018: Free download & Video

At the core of everything that guitarist/composer Perry Smith does is the desire to create personal and musical connections with the artistic community. That’s true of the community he’s built around his inclusive weekly series in Brooklyn, “The Nest Session;” it’s behind his decision to use social media as a means of reaching out, not cutting off. And it lies at the very heart of his third album as a leader, New Angel — both in the close relationships he shares with his bandmates and in his desire to make the sometimes heady concepts of modern jazz something accessible and deeply personal.

New Angel marks the debut of the gifted guitarist’s stellar new quintet, which features saxophonist Jon Irabagon, pianist Glenn Zaleski, bassist Matt Aronoff and drummer Allan Mednard. While they’ve all played together in a variety of contexts, Smith’s decision to bring together this particular group stems directly from their shared experiences at Nest Sessions jams, which he and Aronoff have co-led for more than three years.

The band’s thrilling chemistry is vividly apparent from the opening moments of “Rise and Fall,” whose title makes the tune’s shifting moods and tempos sound deceptively simple. The gentle, memorable melody is prime evidence of Smith’s gift for crafting compositions that embrace the listener while providing plenty of spark for improvisation.

“Deep Water” is a much knottier outing; its title, in fact, reflects the challenge that confronts the quintet in its harmonic complexity and sharp, treacherous angles. “Playing this song can feel like, ‘We’re in deep water right now,’” Smith admits. “That’s always been a tradition in jazz: the idea that you’re pushing yourself to try to explore something new while still trying to create something musical.”

If the title track seems to hang in the air like an unanswered question, that may be due to the fact that it’s the earliest piece on the album, one that Smith started working on as he turned 30, met the woman who would become his wife, and found himself facing many of the larger “what ifs” in life. “New Angel” may be a reference to his now-wife, but more broadly it’s a reference to a spirit of freshness and change.

The spikiness of “Monk’s World” immediately evokes the keen-edged genius and eyebrow-arched joy of the great Thelonious Monk. Smith wrote the piece on the chord changes of Monk’s classic “Epistrophy” as a way of paying homage to the legendary pianist’s outsized influence. “In my experience on the jazz scene in New York,” Smith says, “musicians are always more excited about playing Monk’s tunes than anybody else’s — more than even Coltrane or Wayne Shorter or Herbie. I think it has to do with the playful nature of his songs and the cool, creative melodies that he wrote, which open a lot of freedom in the landscape.”

Presaged by Smith’s introspective, soulful “Notes for Nostalgia,” “The Old Road” is a wistful rumination on the composer’s early days growing up in the California Bay Area. A similarly reflective spirit pervades “Lucid Night,” where the incisive melody suggests a certain brooding clarity.

“Graceful Spirit” returns the album to the theme of connection and community. It was specifically inspired by the eloquence and example of former President Barack Obama, but more generally muses on the idea of grace and empathy as powerful and necessary qualities in a leader — whether of the free world or of a scintillating and passionate jazz quintet.

  1. Rise And Fall (7:01)
  2. Deep Water (6:45)
  3. New Angel (7:30)
  4. Lullaby For Freedom (1:20)
  5. Monk’s World (6:23)
  6. Notes For Nostalgia (0:45)
  7. The Old Road (8:41)
  8. Graceful Spirit (6:37)
  9. Lucid Night (7:16)
  10. Hope For Peace (1:22)

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