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Album Review

An intriguing album of blues and jazz standards from Johnny Smith, a Bay Area guitarist. In tandem with another guitarist and bassist (Mark Holzinger and Chris Justin, respectively), there's a surprising amount of depth presented on an album that would otherwise appear to be just another entry in the long line of standards-playing instrumentalists that release on their own labels now and then. Here, the acoustic trio makes everything into a sort of downhome blues. Simply putting their own mark on the music wouldn't by itself really be noteworthy. The ability to put their own mark on the music, as well as deliver something entirely listenable is. Innovation comes in the form of regressing these classic jazz pieces back to a more primitive form, pre-horn, pre-piano. From time to time a harmonica is enlisted to augment the vocals from Smith, but even then only as a short wail is needed. Smith's vocals are deep and relatively thick, adding a bit of a nightclub tone to the proceedings. The pieces are handled tenderly, given their due reverence as compositions, and then promptly reworked. Miles' great "All Blues" is renovated into a rootsy blues riff, old Sinatra classics are given a little more jazz, but the vocals are still in the worldweary voice of the blues. The pieces chosen from the soul-jazz and hard bop repertoire seem a bit lighter than most, likely from the use of the guitar as opposed to harder-edged instruments. Nonetheless, a fair amount of soul is put into their performance, by way of Smith's vocals if nothing else. Overall, a surprisingly accomplished album, both classic and innovative simultaneously.

San Francisco Bay Jazz, Johnny Smith with friends Mark Holzinger and Chris Justin
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  • 8,99 €
  • Genres: Jazz, Music
  • Released: 10 July 2006

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