Angel Eyes: Ballads and Slow Jams
Aside from marking Smith's return to the recording studio, the influential organist's latest album brings together some of contemporary jazz's brightest stars. From Roy Hargrove and Nicholas Payton on trumpet to Mark Whitfield on guitar and Christian McBride on bass, these virtuosos rise to their reputations, complimenting Smith's sound and style. The group kicks off the recording with a memorable rendition of “Stolen Moments.” The first solo is by Smith and quickly makes clear that the jazz elder hasn't lost his range or grace. Guitarist Whitfield follows up with a dandy of his own — sharp, efficient and articulate. In the course of the album, on tracks like “You Better Go Now,”“Bess, Oh Where's My Bess,” “Tender” and “L'il Darlin',” all of the musicians have ample space to unfold and display their numerous talents. At times soulful and slightly funky and always mellow, this softly spoken album avoids the maudlin. First and foremost it is a collaboration of masters and a collection of masterful interpretations.
— J. Drew Todd
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