Tommy Smith has been so immersed in encouraging the next generation of jazz musicians, overseeing the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra’s programme and touring with bassist Arild Andersen’s trio that he has neglected his own career. Five years have passed since his last album, Forbidden Fruit, was released but somewhere amongst a workload that sees him often directing operations by email from whichever airport he’s passing through, the saxophonist has found time to compose an entire repertoire for a new band in a style that marks a significant departure.
KARMA actually features two of the Forbidden Fruit line-up in pianist-keyboardist Steve Hamilton and drummer Alyn Cosker. The arrival of bass guitarist Kevin Glasgow, however, sees the music applying more rock and funk-derived rhythms underneath a melodic approach inspired by folk music from around the globe but with a definite Scottish accent.
Several of these pieces take the folk ballad form and there’s concision both in their writing and execution that added to the brisk sense of energy and dynamism within the band. Smith also seems to have drawn inspiration from SNJO’s recent and imminent activities, with shades variously of his World of the Gods suite on Sun, complete with Japanese wooden flute intro, of Steely Dan in his rhythm section arrangements, and of Weather Report in Good Deed’s richly textured tenor and synthesiser lines.
The result overall is music that’s immediately appealing and allows the musicians scope to demonstrate their considerable virtuosity within well defined structures.