COMPOSERS: Johnny Smith
PERFORMER: Johnny Smith
CATALOGUE NO: MD8-216
Mosaic Records was launched in 1983 as the first company devoted exclusively to reissuing jazz recordings in limited-edition boxed sets. Each usually encompassed a specific body of work, such as Thelonious Monk’s complete Blue Note output, Duke Ellingtonrecordings for Capitol, Dean Benedetti’s private Charlie Parker stash and so forth.
The firm celebrates its 20th anniversary by inaugurating Mosaic Select, a series of two- and three-disc collections that focus on significant yet relatively neglected work by a broad range of jazz luminaries.
For general collectors, however, eight discs’ worth of guitarist Johnny Smith’s succinct, elegantly crafted small-group sides might be too much of a good thing. Still, his complete recordings for Roost cover ‘The Great American Song Book’ from soup to nuts, so to speak, and exemplify impeccably groomed ‘chamber jazz’ at its finest.
Smith’s exquisite instrumental control and flawlessly executed rapid lines easily explain his status among professionals as a guitarist’s guitarist. Note especially how Smith’s arrangements interlock guitar and piano chord voicings to the point where it becomes difficult to ascertain which instrument is playing what, especially on ballads such as the guitarist’s erstwhile bestseller ‘Moonlight in Vermont’.