Album Remarks & Appraisals:
Saxophone virtuoso Tommy Smith reveals himself to be a consummate ballad player on this laid back selection of classics by two of the most justly celebrated composers in jazz history: Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn. The eleven classics contained on this recording - five by Ellington, four by Strayhorn and two collaborative pieces - include some of the loveliest songs to grace twentieth-century music. The cleverly chosen title track The Sound Of Love, written by Charlie Mingus in tribute to Ellington, is a rarely played gem. Smith fully respects the two composers' original intentions, whilst utilizing shading, colour and texture to add a further dimension of warmth to these familiar themes. Made in New York, with many tracks recorded in just one take, the album peaked at #20 in the American Gavin Jazz Chart upon release. Smith is accompanied by a trio of seasoned musicians: Kenny Barron (a six-time recipient of the Jazz Journalists Association 'Best Pianist' award), bassist Peter Washington and Billy Drummond on drums. Originally released in 1998 The Sound of Love has been re-issued as part of Linn's ECHO series which offers a second chance to enjoy the best of the label's award-winning catalogue. Tommy Smith is a leading light in European jazz and one of the finest saxophonists of his generation. An internationally recognized soloist and bandleader he has worked with Chick Corea, Kenny Wheeler and collaborated with Scotland's Poet Laureate Edwin Morgan. From his debut recording with Blue Note through his numerous recordings with Linn, Smith has always enjoyed critical as well as audience acclaim. Kenny Barron's unmatched ability to mesmerize audiences with his elegant playing, sensitive melodies and infectious rhythms inspired the LA Times to name him 'one of the top jazz pianists in the world' and Jazz Weekly to call him 'the most lyrical piano player of our time'. Barron consistently wins the jazz critics and readers polls, including Downbeat, Jazz Times and Jazziz magazines.
Personnel: Tommy Smith (tenor saxophone); Kenny Baron (piano); Peter Washington (bass); Billy Drummond (drums).
Recorded at Clinton Studios, New York, New York on September 19, 1997.
Includes liner notes by Elliot Meadow.
Tributee: Duke Ellington.
Personnel: Kenny Barron (piano); Tommy Smith (saxophone, tenor saxophone); Billy Drummond (drums).
Liner Note Author: Elliot Meadow.
Recording information: Clinton Studios, New York City, USA (09/19/1997).
Jazz musicians have provided so many Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn tributes over the years that in the late '90s, one greeted an Ellington/Strayhorn homage with the question"Do we really need yet another one?" The frustrating thing was how safe many of those tributes continued to be -- instead of taking chances and turning their attention to some of Ellington and Strayhorn's lesser-known works, many players chose only the most obvious standards. That's exactly what Tommy Smith does on The Sound of Love, a relaxed Ellington/Strayhorn tribute that unites him with pianist Kenny Barron, bassist Peter Washington, and drummer Billy Drummond. It's frustrating that the Scottish tenor saxman doesn't surprise us more and that he pretty much sticks to often-recorded classics like "Solitude," "In a Sentimental Mood," and "Chelsea Bridge." This isn't to say that well-known standards should have been off limits, but how about surprising listeners by embracing some of Ellington and Strayhorn's lesser-known ballads as well? Heaven knows, one could go on and on about all the gems they wrote that were never as famous as "Prelude to a Kiss" or "Sophisticated Lady." Interestingly, Smith's most adventurous choice isn't by Ellington or Strayhorn -- it's the very Ellingtonian Charles Mingus piece "Duke Ellington's Sound of Love." But while this album could have taken more chances, it's certainly enjoyable. A 30-year-old Smith plays with plenty of soul throughout the CD, and the captivating Barron does the same. Emphasizing ballads, Sound of Love essentially functions as mood music -- seductive, evocative, lower-the-lights mood music. Smith is playing it safe this time, but he's also playing from the heart. ~ Alex Henderson