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Since Dec,01,1998

©1998 By barybary



  Japan Mini Lp reissue

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LOUIS SMITH, trumpet ;

"BUCKSHOT LA FUNKE" alto sax ;



ART TAYLOR, drums.

TRIBUTE TO BROWNIE (Duke Pearson) 6:34

BRILL's BLUES (Louis Smith ) 8:18

ANDE * (Louis Smith ) 6:38

STAR DUST * cannonball out  (Carmichael) 5:17

SOUTH SIDE  (Louis Smith ) 8:35

VAL'S BLUES * (Louis Smith ) 6:36

"I'M SENDING you some test pressings," said Alfred Lion. "Let me know what you think."

I was intrigued by the way he worded it. Usually it would be "I'm sending you a new Jimmy Smith and I'd like you to write the notes for it," or "I'd like you to do the notes for a new Sonny Rollins I just sent you," but this time he was playing it cagey; pressed for further details, he clammed up.

Clearly the inference to be drawn was that the man who had gone out on a limb for Clifford Brown five years ago, and for Lee Morgan in 1956, had another discovery under his stylus. Sure enough, next morning there arrived two sides that con- firmed not only my suspicions, but also the continued soundness of Alfred's judgment.

Louis Smith is an unknown trumpet player. Unknown, that is, at the time these notes went to press; his obscurity will cer tainly be short-lived. He signed an exclusive contract with Blue Note Records after Lion, having heard the music on this LP supervised by Tom Wilson, promptly decided to purchase the masters.

Edward Louis Smith was born May 20, 1931, in Memphis, Tenn. He and the trumpet first became acquainted in 1944; acquaintanceship became firm friendship when he was enlisted in the Manassas High School Band. Graduating in 1948 with a scholarship to Tennessee State University, he majored in music. Soon he was a member of the Tennessee State Col legians, which to the 1950's has become to a large extent what the famous Alabama State Collegians were to an earlier jazz generation. The college crew has produced such alumni as Jimmy Cleveland and Phineas Newborn. It was during the group's performance at Carnegie Hall celebrating a college poll victory that Louis Smith became, in his own words, "a de termined jazz neophyte."

Beginning postgraduate work immediately after graduation, he later transferred from Tennessee to the University of Michi gan, where he continued studying trumpet under the tutelage of Professor Clifford Lillya. "During this period," he recalls, "I enjoyed some of my most memorable moments as a young jazz musician, in the form of opportunities to play with visiting musicians such as Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Thad Jones and Billy Mitchell."

Drafted in January 1954, Louis was assigned to the Third Army Special Services unit and again found himself associated with Phineas Newborn. After completing the tour of service duty he found his next civilian job, in late '55, at the Booker T. Washington High School in Atlanta, Ga., and since that time he has remained at the school, thus sharing the profession of such distinguished teachers as Cannonball Adderley, who at the time Louis went to Atlanta was himself employed in an identical capacity at a high school in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

During his incumbency at the school Louis has had occasional opportunities to meet and play with some of the giants he had known through the medium of records, among them Sonny Stift, Count Basie and Al McKibbon. "My pursuit of the jazz idiom," he says, "is due largely to my ardent admiration for the late Fats Navarro, Clifford Brown and Charlie Parker. Most recently I have played sets with Cannonball, Percy Heath, Philly Joe Jones, Lou Donaldson, Donald Byrd, Kenny Dorham and Zoot Sims."

For this, his first recording date, Louis found himself a simi larly impressive list of names to serve as teammates. Buckshot La Funke (of the Florida La Funkes) is one of the modern alto giants and has been described by Nat Adderley as "my favorite soloist and main influence." Tommy Flanagan, of the Detroit Flanagans, has spent most of the past year or so with the Jay Jay Johnson Quintet while Duke Jordan, his alternate, has worked around New York with Cecil Payne et al, as has Art Taylor. Doug Watkins has been a colleague of Flanagan in the Jay Jay combo.

It will not take you long to discern, on the strength of these sides, what it was that Alfred Lion found in Louis Smith to give him the same faith he had in Brownie, in Horace Silver and Lee Morgan and all the many others whose careers he has helped. On the very first track, a medium-fast minor theme entitled Tribute to Brownie, Louis inaugurates the session with some thirty measures of free-wheeling ad lib horn accompanied only by Taylor's percussion. The perfect timing of his sequences of eighth notes, the skilful use of the appogiatura, the casual incorporation of a cycle-of-fifths thought, the swinging confi dence of the phrasing - all testify immediately to a degree of musicianship and maturity not too often found among newcomers.

As the listener makes. his way through the rhythmically buoyant territory of Louis Smith's first LP grooves, he will find answered all the questions that may have been stirring in his subconscious. Can he play funky? Dig the first five choruses of Brill's Blues. Can he write interesting lines? Hear what he did with the Indiana changes on Ancle, which he says was "written and named for my wife, who is a devoted jazz lover and my inspiration." Can he handle a ballad? The answer is provided by his treatment of Star Dust, a challenging piece of material in that everything conceivable would seem to have been said about it in a hundred previous interpretations on record; for Louis it represents a chance to show that restrained and tasteful melodic variations on a theme are just as important and effective a part of his musical personality as the ability to swing thoughtfully and originally on a fast-moving set of chords.

Then there are the two originals with which the second side continues - the moderato South Side, partly unison and partly voiced, in which the sympathetic vibrations between Smith and Buckshot make for a beautifully rounded opening chorus; and the swift, ingenious reworking of the perennial twelve-measure pattern on Val's Blues.

Lest it be assumed that in our enthusiasm for Mr. Smith we have failed to observe the operations of his fellow-conspirators, or that in Blue Note's own ecstasy he was allotted all the solo item, it must be reported here that everyone els~ involved is thoroughly represented. Buckshot, scattering his cartridges throughout the battle lines, is especially effective when dealing in sixteenth-note hand-grenades on South Side. Both pianists are accorded space compatible with their merits. Flanagan offers a discreetly efficient backing to Louis on Star Dust and covers some spirited solo ground on Ande and Val's Blues; Jordan on Brill's plays the kind of slow, single-line blues I have always felt shows him at his best, and is no less capable in his solo contributions to Brownie and South Side. Taylor, though functioning mainly as an inventive sectional backstop through~ out, is heard in some felicitous fours with the horns on Vol's Blues and Ande; Watkins, though also serving mainly in the section, grabs the spotlight for one of his relatively rare recorded solos on South Side and walks awhile on Vol's Blues.

These are, of course, merely extra added attractions. Most of those who invest in this disc will do so on the strength of the new name it introduces. Bearing in mind that this is Louis Smith's first record date, conscious too of Blue Note's previous record in the presentation of new talents, they will listen for evidence of the sounds that produced this faith in Louis Smith as a star of the next jazz generation, and they will be richly rewarded.


(Author of The Book of JAZZ)

Supervision by TOM WILSON

Cover Photo by CHARLES LOWE

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