Rudy Smith

Jazz 'n' Steel from Trinidad and Tobago

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This is an album that showcases the Trinidadian's habit of converting the steel drums' usage for genres other than their native calypso. In truth, the compositions and playing here sound like any given jazz trio or quartet you could hear in a small club in any major metropolis. The difference is that the leader is playing the steel drums. All works on the album are performed by the Rudy Smith Trio, except for "Carnival in '72," which is played by Smith's protégé Anese Hadeed on an oversized tenor pan (almost three-octave range). As for the quality of the jazz on the album, there is nothing especially notable; it is good, but nothing that would raise any eyebrows among classic jazz circles. What would raise the eyebrows is that usage of the steel drums, which add a whole new level to the jazz in some ways. Charlie Parker's "Now Is the Time" is covered, though it is of course impossible to match Parker's speed by any mere mortal. Fellow standard "Autumn Leaves" is also present, but with the eerie sonic qualities available only through the use of struck steel. The album ends with an interpretation of the uber-standard "Body and Soul," which is played with complete coolness. The album is definitely worth a listen, for both jazz fans that want to hear the extension to steeldrums and for calypso fans that want to hear the extension to jazz.

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