Eight And More
Arild Andersen - Double bass, electronics
Paulo Vinaccia - Drums
Tommy Smith - Tenor saxophone, shakuhachi
The Norwegian Arild Andersen has long been one of the finest bass players around (some of his earliest work was with Jan Garbarek's trios and
quartets, from 1967 until 1973). Immensely experienced, he has played with a galaxy of American stars as well as with some of the finest European
musicians. Norwegian folk music has been a significant influence on his writing. His partnership with Tommy Smith, that maestro of the Scottish
jazz scene, and Paulo Vinaccia who, though Italian, has lived in Norway since 1979, is fairly recent. Their first album together was Independency in 2005. This is the third album they've made as a trio - the critically acclaimed Live at Belleville was released
in 2007. The majority of the tunes here are Andersen compositions. Burt Bacharach's Alfie is the only standard on the disc.
So, what of the album? Bygone has some moody tenor from Smith, discreet drumming by Vinaccia and sonorous, articulate bass from Andersen. Blussy features a percussive beginning, taken up by Andersen who nimbly shows, in the course of the track, his mastery of his instrument.
Smith plays with real passion on this one, blowing up a storm. The musicians, in their interplay, reveal the quality of their understanding of one
another. Alfie has a lush performance from Tommy Smith which Ben Webster would have been glad to own: very mellow, full register, never
departing radically from the melody but with a satisfying jazz inflection throughout. Arild Andersen's deep rich tone is again in evidence before
Smith plays the number out in style. Rossetti is an attractive, if melancholy, piece with a smooth tenor sound gradually taking on more
urgency and an extended bass solo from Andersen where his typically adroit musicianship is on show. A repetition by Smith of the theme leads into a
sudden ending. There is restrained drumming from Vinaccia to savour, too. Reparate, the longest track at just over eight and a half
minutes, is played in by Andersen, Smith joining in delicately (he is reminiscent of Garbarek here). There is then a gear shift, however, as the
piece steadily becomes more robust and the somewhat mournful, even mysterious, theme develops. The drums are again unobtrusive but effective with
Andersen allowed plenty of scope on bass.
Raijin is a short composition by Smith and Vinaccia and it
is the drummer who begins the piece, joined by Tommy Smith playing
with wistful fervour the shakuhachi, a Japanese bamboo end-blown flute,
used, I believe, by a sect of Zen to assist in the practice of seated
meditation. Le Saleya offers a meandering melody featuring
a blend of tenor with bass plus admirable accompaniment from Paulo
Vinaccia. Tommy Smith makes a typically supple contribution. Kangiten
is an elegiac short piece from the pen of Tommy Smith with the
shakuhachi, again, his instrument of choice. Mira has resonant
bass throughout on an engaging theme. Vinaccia gives reliable, almost
stately, support and the strength of the writing offers Smith the
chance to go through his paces. This was probably my favourite track
– very easy on the ear and a great tune. Eight And More has
a slow beginning but gathers momentum. There is some busy interaction
with Paulo Vinaccia prominent. This track has a mysterious quality
about it. Stevtone is a sombre but interesting listen with,
in particular, high-register playing by Smith.
This is a CD featuring musicians near the top of their game. My admiration
for Andersen should be apparent and Vinaccia is an accomplished drummer
but Tommy Smith really makes his mark. The man seems to have absorbed
the entire tradition of modern jazz and can effortlessly switch from
one style to another, without losing his identity. Bravo!