Michael Smith

Austin Stream

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Recorded live at the Total Music Meeting in Berlin a month after his album, Geomusic, on the Polish Muxa label, Austin Stream features three of the same musicians from that date as well as several of the same pieces, although some of these are rearranged drastically. Smith is an intriguing, if largely unknown, pianist/composer who was fairly active in the avant jazz scene (working with Steve Lacy, among others) before drifting into academe and soundtrack/dance composition. He sometimes sounds like a merger of Cecil Taylor and Mal Waldron, with the former's structural sense and the latter's tendency toward darkness and rumination. The pieces range from fairly standard post-bop ("A Ballad for K," performed here in up-tempo mode) to Smith's unique approach he termed Geomusic. He gives no clue as to what precisely makes up this form, but it tends to be dense, often at once dirge-like and contemplative. As on the prior recording, bassist Kent Carter, yet another under-recognized giant of the scene, is Smith's most dynamic foil; one would be very curious to hear these two in a duo format. Overall, Austin Stream is an enjoyable performance, a bit more inconsistent than the studio session of a month previous but also providing some interesting alternatives to the ideas developed therein.

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