Drummer/composer Joe Smith had a couple of projects in the can when Happy, his official debut, was released. It features a fine quintet, with Bill McHenry on tenor sax, Benet Palet on trumpet and flute, Joan Monné on piano, and Giulia Valle on bass. The writing is strong and varied, the group's interplay adventurous and playful ("Happy" is in fact a good title). Among Smith's six originals are the quirky, quasi-rock title track, the ambitious "Motion of Slow," and the brightly swinging "Nic's Night." McHenry weighs in with the piano trio ballad "Lady Friend" and two freer pieces, "Ahora" and "Time." And Valle contributes the two-part "Sing a Song," an amazingly well-constructed piece that contains some of the best soloist/rhythm section dialogue on the date. The band displays not only superior musicianship but also a strong and engaging personality. Kudos to the leader for knowing just how to bring it out.
AllMusic Review by David R. Adler