Although my copy went AWOL many years ago, I retain a soft spot for Smith’s debut album. Cut when he was 15, it suggested a slow motion Albert Ayler, marking him out from the crowd. After studying at Berklee he seemed to move into the post-Brecker mainstream, but in recent years his output (as composer, arranger and facilitator as well as performer) has impressed with its quality, quantity and variety.
Publicity highlights the influence of genres like metal, and Smith calls this his ‘grunge band’, but in essence it is pukka jazz, with such influences well-absorbed and balanced by echoes of Garbarek and various folk traditions: though superbly recorded at Oslo’s Rainbow Studios, Smith evokes Scottish lochs rather than Norwegian fjords. Depending on the mood of the composition, his tone is tungsten-tough or tender and nostalgic, his improvisations stimulating, exciting and affecting. Hamilton, Glasgow and Cosker are superb throughout. Barry Witherden