Kansas Smitty’s House Band – Broadway 2018
(Kansas Smitty’s. LP/download Review by Mark McKergow)
Kansas Smitty’s House Band burst forth once again from their cellar bar headquarters in Hackney’s Broadway Market with a year-ending collection of bright, classically original jazz performed with gusto and skill.
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It’s three years since the band’s debut CD appeared (REVIEWED HERE), and they have gone from strength to strength since with appearances at Ronnie Scott’s, festival shows at Cheltenham and London, and forays into Europe. Their music is proving a great success with audiences – classic-sounding jazz which turns out not to be covers and standards but original compositions. Their musicianship is outstanding here, as on previous outings, with intricate arrangements and cunning use of resources to get their (give-or-take) seven-piece outfit sounding like anything from a big band to a loco latin ensemble.
Smitty’s have been releasing an EP every three months, each bringing four new tracks into the open. This limited edition vinyl LP (just 450 copies) brings together highlights from 2018’s releases, along with a brand new track. Most of the tunes come from the pen of leader and saxophonist Giacomo Smith, with guitarist David Archer contributing two numbers and helping on a third. The music touches on a wider variety of styles than on previous releases, with more post-war elements and more stretching out for the soloists. (Their debut CD was notable for squeezing ten tracks into less than 40 minutes!) Here we have eight tracks, one of which is a monumental seven minutes in duration.
The opening Twentieth Century bows deeply in the direction of Duke Ellington, with chunky section harmonies and a super growling trumpet solo from Pete Horsfall (whose own solo debut CD Nighthawks I reviewed here earlier in the year). Bird On Money is a jumpy and boppish affair, nodding to Charlie ‘Bird’ Parker and also perhaps to Charles Mingus’ tribute Bird Calls from the Mingus Ah-Um album. Here, Giacomo Smith takes things into his own hands with a smoulderingly atmospheric alto sax solo passage before some neat drum breaks featuring Will Cleasby.
David Archer’s Yewande points in a new direction with an African tinge loping along in a smoothly flowing seven-in-a-bar feel (yes, it can be done!) led by Archer’s guitar. Alec Harper takes an extended solo on tenor saxophone, building very nicely with swirling rising piano from Joe Webb. The uber-lively Beijinhos is a superb piece of latin liveliness co-written by Adrian Cox and featuring Cox’s clarinet in a fantastically neat duo with Smith. This track was recorded live and features great and well-deserved audience reaction to the reed solos. It’s like we’re in the Cuba of the 1950s waiting for Marlon Brando and Jean Simmons to jet in from Guys & Dolls.
Kansas Smitty’s House Band continue their tradition of producing literate, exciting and hugely enjoyable jazz in prodigious volume – no wonder they are the talk of the town. See them on New Year’s Eve at Ronnie Scott’s, and check out the new album at the band’s Bandcamp website (link below). And if you don’t have your vinyl turntable, don’t worry – you won’t miss out. The music is available for download and streaming too.
Categories: LP review
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