Friday, January 12, 2018
Reggie Pittman/Loren Daniels Quartet's Smilessence
This new album from horn player Reggie Pittman and keyboardist Loren Daniels is as sunny and bright as its cover, a solid and straightforward jazz quartet sound that feels like it's been waiting in the shadows preparing to jump out as you pass by. Isn't it a great day? Do you need a little more beauty in your life? Man, I like that shirt you're wearing!
There's an exceptional clarity to this album that's downright exciting. The overall sound is so clearly delineated in three dimensions, so well-drawn and defined. Everything just pops. (Yeah, that's a cliche that needs to be retired soon.) It all goes back to my comment last week in that El Eco review: "I like this one because it's really nice." Perhaps we could substitute right for nice and you'll have a clearer idea of what I'm saying, that the difference between good jazz and great jazz is noticeable within the first few seconds. You either have four or five people playing music, with each one playing a certain role, or you have a combined whole that just swings and moves forward with considerable momentum. It sounds right, it makes sense. You have no choice but to hop on board.
Pittman and Daniels are, once again, a couple of old pros who have played with everyone including Aretha Franklin, Milt Jackson, Rufus Reid, the Temptations and even the Allman Brothers. This particular quartet, which also includes bassist Mike Richmond and drummer Jonathon Peretz, is one of those "working bands" that have been playing together for a long time and are therefore as tight as a drum. I'm particularly impressed with Peretz--his drumming is as exciting and as dynamic as it gets in jazz. I also enjoy the way that Daniels can completely change the tone of a song by alternating between piano, electric piano and the ubiquitous Hammond B-3. Pittman's horns are front and center most of the way--and he is a master of mood. I'm even bowled over by Richmond's bass--he's a great player and all, but I'm equally thrilled that he's recorded so clearly (can you sense a theme here?) that you can hear his mechanics, they way he leans into his instrument and pulls those notes out, kicking and screaming.
Every track is an adventure, full of distinct charms and unique perspectives. This quartet isn't satisfied with just playing a tune and seeing how it comes out. There's some thought involved, especially in the way these four performers switch up their styles and see how that adds to the whole. Not everyone out there is doing that. Smilessence is exactly that, a smile-inducing shot of jazz that captures the essence of who these four performers are, and where they have been.