Although he has worked with all three musicians in this new quartet before, saxophonist Tommy Smith promised a new direction for this debut. That shift was apparent from the opening bars of the first composition, Cause and Effect.
It was too much to absorb fully at one hearing, but this could well develop into Smith’s toughest and most creative quartet, and it is certainly his loudest. The music alternated between crunching, groove-based up-tempo tunes and more serene, folk-influenced outings, as in the evocative Land of Heroes and Star.
Those were closer to earlier directions in his music than the funk-driven items. Alyn Cosker has a track record in that vein, and his aggressive but subtly accented drumming drove the music on a wave of nervy, compulsive energy, abetted by Steve Hamilton’s electronic keyboard and Kevin Glasgow’s electric bass.
The music combined on-the-button precision with raw power in absorbing fashion, and the simple riff-and-groove structures opened space for improvisation, not just from Smith’s inventive tenor and soprano, but also Hamilton, who delivered coherent and intelligent piano solos as well as his electronic contributions.
Body or Soul even took the music in a bit of a prog rock direction, while Sun threw in Japanese influences, and the penultimate tune (he didn’t tell us the name) had a Middle Eastern feel. It all came to a head in the extended collective interplay and exchange of the ferocious Good Deed.