Paul Smoker

Duocity in Brass & Wood

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As is so often the case with music this adventurous, reactions are likely to be extreme: most probably will either love it or hate it. Both CDs from this set were recorded live at Rochester, NY's appropriately titled Bop Shop, a venue that has excelled at hosting the best artists on the radical fringes of jazz. Each CD features the sinewy trumpet of Paul Smoker with a different acoustic string bassist, Ed Schuller on the first and Dominic Duval on the second. The edge goes to the slightly more accessible one with Duval due in part to its selection of tunes, which include the popular songs "If I Were a Bell," "Blue Monk," and "The Party's Over." All the other tracks on both discs are more or less freely improvised. While the bassists are critical to the success of the music, it is the trumpeter's amazing technique, putty-like extensions, twisted notes, and taffy-soft rubbery turns that continuously astound. Smoker uses mutes effectively, coupled with long bop-derived runs that end suddenly like a long-distance runner crossing the finish line. While slightly more than two hours of trumpet and bass might be difficult for even the most seasoned listeners to bear in a single sitting, Smoker is a unique stylist who infuses every piece with fascinating plunges, changes in tempo, surprising choices of notes, and humor.

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