WORKS: Without A Song, Cherokee, You’ve Changed, Don’t Blame Me, Moonlight In Vermont, Manhattan, Skylark, Honeysuckle Rose, Pure Imagination, Bernie’s Tune, You Must Believe In Spring
PERFORMER: Tommy Smith (saxophones) Brian Kellock (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: STS 010
It was disappointing that the BBC’s recent Jazz Britannia series ignored the remarkable progress in Scottish jazz of late, which this delightful series of duets by two of the country’s leading players underlines. Tommy Smith is a formidable saxophone virtuoso, quite able to blow right past playing partners when he’s in the mood, but the amiable Kellock has his measure, as they showed on a previous live date, Bezique.
This studio encounter is a lot more quiescent, couched in a settled midstream idiom – 11 very familiar standards – but there’s a knowing, foot-off-the-pedal feel to the playing that allows them to add detail and nuance to otherwise straight-from-the-shoulder improvising. ‘Cherokee’, for instance, is slowed to a stroll, revealing a lissom quality that the breakneck pace of its usual treatment obscures, and ballads such as ‘Moonlight in Vermont’ are given tender but clear-headed readings – spot how unpredictably Smith shifts between registers on that melody. Richard Cook