DOWN BEAT 4 STARS - April 2011
Whether it's the bond between tenor saxophonist Walte Smith III and trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, the way that drummer Eric Harland introduces new phrases, or the uncomplicated approach that smith takes, there is something about III that makes it sound like it's from a earlier time in the best possible sense. Recorded mostly in one take, this has the highly melodic feel of a Woody Shaw / Dexter Gordon or mid-'60s Wayne Shorter recording. Personnel
Smith signals his intention with the opening 80 seconds of "Working Title", playing a complentative solo that begins almost off-handedly and builds substance up to the point where the band enters, steaming. His ability to develop statements that have rigorous form and unerring logic is an obvious strenght. On "Capital Wasteland" - which, being based on a post-apocalypse video game, follows in the tradition of cowboy-obsessed Sonny Rollins and super-hero-loving Shorter - his central solo begins as a series of short, high cries and then circles up to a hoarse, anxious climax. Duetting with Jason Moran on the pianist's lovely "Aubade". Smith has his heart on his sleeve, balancing breathy sibilance with grainy, full-bodied tone.
Moran's DNA is almost as much in evidence here. In addition to "Aubade" "Moranish" provides a platform for gospel-tinged playing, his stabbing interjections on "Byus" add tension to the free-flowing soloing of Smith and Akinmusire, and he gets the final word with a grateful conclusion on "Goodnight Now".
III is not a recording that demands attention, but its depths and subtle grace reward it. - James Hale
: WALTER SMITH III, tenor saxophone
ERIC HARLAND, drums;
JASON MORAN, piano
AMBROSE AKINMUSIRE, trumpet
JOE SANDERS, bass
LOGAN RICHARDSON, alto saxophone.
Tracks:01. Working Title
02. Capital Wasteland
09. Goodnight Now.