COMPOSERS: Tommy Smith & Brian Kellock
LABELS: Spartacus


From the LP era onwards, the task of documenting jazz on record has often fallen to so-called independent labels. The grand marques of Blue Note, Verve and Pacific Jazz may be under major-label jurisdiction now, but they started out as indies, and today the bulk of jazz recording is done under the auspices of the hundreds of entrepreneurs who went into the business primarily because they loved the music.

Of the younger British jazz musicians, the one with most major-label experience is tenor saxophonist TOMMY SMITH, who once had a string of Blue Note releases to his credit. It’s a commentary on the current state of affairs that he should be releasing his own music on his own label, Spartacus.

A duet performance with pianist BRIAN KELLOCK, Bezique, recorded at last year’s Edinburgh Jazz Festival, is a sensational display by two players on their most powerful form. Smith is a fierce virtuoso who tends to dominate every setting he drops into, yet Kellock is himself an undistilled spirit, and this encounter is exhilarating, sometimes to the point of exhaustion.


Standards and jazz tunes are used as markers in what is really an improvised dialogue which seems to carry over the breaks between themes. Kellock is ingenious at teasing Smith towards corners which the tenorman either deftly sidesteps or from which he blows his way out. Then they end on a ‘Lush Life’ which is all polished refinement.