Mike Smith

Unit 7

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Mike Smith wears his Cannonball Adderley influences proudly, and on this tribute disk the parallels are even more evident. That said, Smith, a fine, articulate player and capable leader, is just as easily recognizable as a disciple of Phil Woods or Sonny Stitt, players with a more precise, incisive approach to the alto sax compared to Adderley's earthy virtuosity. Generally, Smith and company make tidier packages of these pieces than the Adderley quintet did in the late '50s and early to mid-'60s. What the Chicago-based Smith and company dispense with in unbridled soul, they make up for with tight ensemble playing and coolly incandescent solo work. Pianist Jodie Christian is a main contributor to the clean lines that shape these performances. Trumpeter Ron Friedman, like Smith, brings his own bright, agile sound to the session. Guitarist Sid Jacobs is on hand for one track, the jazz samba "La Luz de la Luna," the only Smith original on the CD. This set usefully includes a full-length airing of Sam Jones' title track, which the Adderley quintet used in truncated form to signal breaks between sets. The inclusion of Nat Adderley's ballad "Pisces" is also valuable, since the version by Nat's group was recorded -- to its detriment -- with Age of Aquarius hipster vocals from Los Angeles DJ Rick Holmes on the 1972 LP Soul Zodiac. (Brother Nat also contributes Unit 7's liner notes.) While made with audible care and skill, this 1990 release remains content to bask in the shadows of the Adderley quintet, rather than use it as a point of departure to new musical horizons.

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