In the liner notes that John Anello, Jr. wrote for Smile, the jazz guitarist/producer and Cexton Records president states that this CD makes one feel "like you're sitting in the middle of a jazz club." Anello speaks the truth; although Smile -- which he produced in a Hollywood, CA, studio in 1990 and released on Cexton in 1996 -- wasn't actually recorded in a jazz club, it feels live. That's because this acoustic hard bop CD was recorded live in the studio and is defined by spontaneity; on Smile, veteran tenor saxman Jay Migliori and colleagues Chiz Harris (drums), Joe Lettieri (piano), and Isla Eckinger (bass) form a quartet and play like they would have played on-stage in a jazz club. There are no fancy overdubs -- what one hears on Smile really went down in that Hollywood studio in 1990. The only type of safety net that the quartet had was the opportunity to play multiple takes; Anello picked the takes he felt were the most successful, and his ears served him well. Migliori, who was 60 when this album was recorded, is in prime form on the sexy, alluring "Bad Girl" (which acknowledges John Coltrane's more mellow side) and the angular "Lunatic Waltz," as well as spirited, hard-swinging performances of standards that include "The Song Is You," Gene Ammons' "Red Top," and Charlie Chaplain's "Smile." There are many noteworthy bop efforts in the Cexton catalog; Smile is one of the finest, most rewarding CDs that Anello's label has released.
by Alex Henderson