Larry Smith Presents THE SEIDENBERG SESSIONS
Compelling music penned by pianist/composer Larry Smith that allows for ample, enjoyable, and creative improvisational explorations by saxophonist Tim Mayer, bassist Geoffrey Lowe, and drummer Dan Brubeck.
"Smith, Lowe, Mayer, and Brubeck, a 21st century version of the Dave Brubeck Quartet, made profoundly meaningful music together, as ONE."
REVIEW: LARRY SMITH QUARTET
STUDIOS OF KEY WEST
Much of the creative magic found within the ever-pulsing Key West artist community is the stuff of accidental discovery.
There's an undeniable thrill in finding something that existed here all along, yet remained hidden behind the colorful throngs of seasonal revelers and cruise ship tourists who collect on Duval Street. Indeed, for many the Island's party atmosphere and hang-loose ethic is all that's needed to satisfy a hunger for the rum-soaked beach fantasy life as depicted in the long-ago hit song by the town's most famous entertainer.
However, for those who wish to dig a little deeper beyond the souvenir bar paraphernalia and good-time party bands, there exists that same free-spirited creative mojo that has nurtured and inspired the works of countless authors, artists and musicians from the moment Henry Flagler rode the first train into town. It is fitting then, that the Studios of Key West, the epicenter of Keys artistry, play host to the works of long-time Key West composer/pianist/vocalist Larry Smith and his quartet of world-class musicians for an evening of original compositions, surprise guest performances and fresh interpretations of celebrated jazz standards.
The January 31st show attendees comprised a mix of the Smith faithful and frequent collaborators along with relative newcomers like myself who's familiarity with Larry's work is limited to his regular solo and combo performances at Duval Street's Little Room Jazz Club. The mood was celebratory, as one would naturally anticipate for a CD release party. Indeed much of the evening's material was culled from Four Man Vision, an ambitious new effort that features Larry's original compositions augmented by the talents of saxophonist/flutist Tim Mayer, bassist Geoffrey Lowe and drummer Dan Brubeck, all highly sought-after musicians with the ability to astound and delight audiences from across the globe.
Expectations naturally ran high, although any preconceived notion of stuffiness was immediately shown the door with the opening number entitled "Bill's Muffler Shop." Therein lies the key to a Larry Smith performance - a tenuous balance of whimsy, pastoral beauty and genre familiarity, all delivered with no-nonsense musicianship and a finger on the collaborative spirit.
Not content with simply re-creating an album's worth of music for promotion's sake, the band deftly unveiled a handful of fresh material that allowed each member to showcase their individual talents, ranging from Geoffrey Lowe's pocket-skirting melodic counterpoint to Smith's piano throughout the fresh composition "Valley of Blue," to Dan Brubeck's Latin-infused percussive frenzy amidst "Prado Kongo Mambo."
But it is the soulful dialogue created through the saxophone of Tim Mayer that ultimately won the night, be it through the wringing of heartstrings throughout the storm-inspired portrait "Montisi," or the manic, machine shop-infused "Powerhouse"-style boogie of "Don't Fast-Text Me, Son," the latter inspired by ubiquitous Key West drummer and frequent Smith collaborator/foil Skipper Kripitz, who's contribution to the project's formative stages didn't go unrecognized.
Surprises were abundant throughout the night, beginning with the addition of another of Key West's hidden talents, the graceful and splendorous Alannah Shanle, an 8th grade student at HOB Middle School, who's interpretive dance during the performance of "Lighted Boat Parade" brought a delicate and elegant air of majesty to the delicate number. Much credit is due to dance instructor Allison Mayer for bringing out the best in this young lady and there's no reason to not expect great things from this rising young star in the future.
Additionally, the night saw the inclusion of local artist and vocalist Christine Cordone-Smith during "Hometown Blues," a wistful ode to the transplanted northerner that seamlessly rode a nostalgic wave between early rock n' roll and smoky, blue-note bop. The vocal mic was subsequently shared between Cordone-Smith and the room-busting talents of one of the island's most formidable vocalists, Kathleen Peace, delivering the unlikely but surprisingly tasty tandem of "Cheek to Cheek" and the 1960s San Francisco flower child anthem "White Bird."
Then there was the looming yet unseen presence in the room, undoubtedly felt from the moment his son Dan sat down behind the drum kit: Dave Brubeck. The inclusion of "Blue Rondo al la Turk" and "Take Five" into this set may seem arbitrary in this instance, but the lengths to which the son played tribute to the works of his father was nothing short of astounding. Watching Dan unleash a torrent of polyrhythms during the 5/4 centerpiece of 1959's Time Out was a sight to behold, as was the sight of bassist Geoffrey Lowe as he somehow kept the whole thing grounded amidst the flying wood shrapnel shedding from Brubeck's Vic Firths.
Ultimately, I came away from the evening with a feeling of thorough satisfaction, spiked with a hint of privilege at having witnessed a performance by a combo that many had not or will not have the opportunity to experience for themselves. True magic is elusive and not always readily apparent upon first glance. But if one takes the time to look beyond the expected norm, The Larry Smith Quartet has proven on this night to be able to provide the sort of magic that makes a trip to the southernmost end of US 1 such an unmitigated joy.
- Scotty Napierkowski
Larry Smith Quartet
Studios of Key West
Review By: Ann McFarland
January 31, 2016
Although this town is well-known for its live music, few performances offer the musical synergy of Sunday’s Studios of Key West Concert featuring the Larry Smith Quartet. For this event, Larry joined forces with three internationally-renown musicians: Geoffrey Lowe on bass, Tim Mayer on sax, and Dan Brubeck (son of the late Dave Brubeck) on drums.
Smith, a resident of Key West for more than 20 years, is best known for his outstanding musicianship as a jazz pianist. This concert allowed the audience to experience an additional facet of Smith—that of composer. Smith creates tunes that have immediate audience appeal, and also the impetus to inspire improvisation. Smith stated that he envisioned Lowe, Mayer, and Brubeck as he wrote these new compositions. This is obvious to the listener, as each part embodies the player, and the parts fit together as a work of art.
The evening began with a rendition of Smith’s classic “Bill’s Muffler Shop,” a high energy tune that had audience members smiling and tapping their toes. The concert continued with more Smith originals sporting imaginative titles such as “Prado Kongo Mambo,” “Don’t Fast Text Me, Son,” “Thelonious Funk,” and “Coronation of the Absurd.” Smith took us on a musical journey through a variety of styles and a myriad of emotions. Of particular note was “View from the Miramar,” a tone poem inspired by the beauty of the southern coast of France as seen from a window of the Mirimar Hotel. A touch of local color (and I don’t mean the clothing store) was provided by gifted young dancer Alannah Shanle as she interpreted Smith’s “Lighted Boat Parade.”
Two apropos additions to the evening’s set list were “Take Five” and “Rondo a la Turk,” both iconic Dave Brubeck tunes. Dan Brubeck provided a wonderful narrative about how his father found inspiration for the Rondo while serving in Turkey as an international musical ambassador under the Eisenhower administration.
Smith, Lowe, Mayer, and Brubeck, a 21st century version of the Dave Brubeck Quartet, made profoundly meaningful music together, as ONE. This connection with the David Brubeck Quartet is more than the instrumentation and the fact that one of Brubeck’s sons was among the performers. Smith’s use of traditional harmonies, as well as playful intricacies of multimetrics and polyrhythms is a quiet, but definite, nod to the elder Brubeck.
John Coltrane once said “I never even thought about whether or not they understand what I’m doing…the emotional reaction is all that matters as long as there’s some feeling of communication, it isn’t necessary that it be understood.” From the emotional energy in the room, it was obvious that Smith communicated with his audience exactly as Coltrane describes.
THE LARRY SMITH QUARTET DELIVERS SMOOTH JAZZ
TSKW Review By: George Fontana
Piano man Larry Smith has been a staple on the Key West
music scene since he gravitated south some years ago from
Woodstock, New York. He's gigged at numerous venues around
town, but is perhaps best-known for his long running
engagement at the Pier House where he was king of night time
jazz. Times change, and Larry has transitioned with the
Inspired by the iconic Dave Brubeck Quartet, The Larry Smith
Quartet includes Geoffrey Lowe on base, Tim Mayer on sax,
Dan Brubeck (Dave's son) on percussion and, of course, Larry
on piano. The ensemble recently regaled a very enthusiastic
audience at a concert at The Studios of Key West theater
Most of the numbers were composed by Smith, and many
incorporated a home town vibe. "Bill's Muffler Shop", "Prado
Kongo Mongo", "The Lighted Boat Parade" and "Coronation of
the Absurd" are Keys-specific tunes which resonated with
Larry's local fan base. In fact, the gig had a nostalgic
overtone as many of those in attendance had been regulars at
Smith's ongoing Pier House jazz jam.
In this new iteration, The Larry Smith Quartet delivered
smooth, effortless jazz that would make the elder Brubeck
proud. Larry's keyboard chops ranged from soulful
("Premeditation in Blue") to funky ("Thelonius Funk") to
playful("Don't Fast Text Me, Son"). And with a tip of
the hat to the great Ella Fitzgerald, Larry scats with the
best of them.
Geoffrey Lowe delivered a consistent base line during the
concert; shining on his solos. Boston sax phenom, Tim Mayer
was at the top of his form; also a stand out as he carried
the melody for many of the tunes. Mayer is currently an
instructor at The Center for Jazz Studies at Mexico's
Veracruz University. Displaying the characteristic cool for
which jazz musicians are known, Mayer was unfazed when Smith
made an impromptu request: "Say something in Mexican". For
the record, Mayer's Spanish is impeccable. Guest vocalists
Christine Cordone and Kathleen Peace contributed to the
The Larry Smith Quartet paid tribute to Dave Brubeck with
their cover of "Take Five" - Brubeck's record-breaking
cross-over hit that remains a classic to this day.
Fittingly, Dave' son Dan was showcased on a drum solo which
was the highlight of the number. Cool jazz on a tropical
night: The Larry Smith Quartet.