Nathaniel Smith ]|[ QUARTET – [Fresh Sound | New Talent, 2011] – Music Review –
In our fast paced culture it’s always a breath of fresh air to hear new and accessible music by independent artists. On this occasion, I’m elated to introduce drummer | composer Nathaniel Smith from all places Missoula, Montana. Smith emerged on the scene as accomplished writer, arranger and producer his debut offering appropriately titled “QUARTET” on Fresh Sound/New Talent Records ©2011.
“Quartet” compositionally contains seven songs mostly pen by Smith. They feature three additional voices to bring life to this palette of superb songs which includes Concord Records recording artist and classmate Jon Irabagon on saxophone, bassist Mark Anderson and Jostein Gulbrandsen on guitar rounds out this cast of skillful musicians.
The opener, “Daybreak and Then Dusk” embodies a cohesive vibe transformed through the lush timbre of saxophonist Jon Irabagon’s hybrid-bop phrasings and guitarist Jostein Gulbrandsen colorful shades. Immediately the group aligns themselves with a constant yet angular tempo accompanied by a wealth of maturity within the context of the song. The ensemble breaks out swinging in a neo-traditional fashion with a twist of modernism is without a doubt a great way to start the session allowing room for the musicians exercise their voices and challenge one another to exchange solos effortlessly.
The bluesy “Tortoise Pendant” penned by Smith is at the two spot. He attended Manhattan School of Music and was influenced by legendary saxophonist David Liebman’s compositional class therefore was inspired to write this song. “Tortoise Pendant” swags with deliberate motion swaying back and forth sonically to lure you right into the pulse of the groove is indeed inviting. “Return of the Bear” and “Tomorrow’s Perfume” both appear at the right spot contextually one with a mid-tempo ramp and the other flows graciously with sublime nuances in this expansive volume of addictive music superbly played by the quartet.
“Actionable Intelligence” is another notable gem attached parallel to the preceding tunes. With this track, the group feeds off of one another’s knowledge, passion and rhythmic dexterity to crank out another satisfying piece of music. As an understudy of drum guru John Riley you can only imagine the debut and quality of Smith’s artistry as a drummer.
Bassist Mark Anderson tonality on the acoustic is present on “Travishamockery,” this jewel resonates beautifully at the sixth and seems to borrow from the lineage of straight ahead jazz without being totally engulfed by it.
“Shadow Puppet” the closer is symbolic of Smith’s compositional pattern throughout his transparent document of infallible music titled “Quartet.” What I find most rewarding about this project is the consistency described via the vision of Nathaniel Smith. Furthermore, as the music developed throughout this album his companions encompass these songs with a contagious grace yet their complimentary interplay as a unit is extraordinary as though they composed these gems individually. —Rob Young | The Urban Flux