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Jason Smith

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Biography of Jason Smith

With the release of "Tipping Point-Live at the Jazz Bakery," drummer Jason Smith makes his voice emphatically heard. Flanked by Gary Husband on piano and Fender Rhodes, and Dave Carpenter on acoustic bass, Smith leads his cohorts through a set of unconventional standards, executed with a deft blend of audacity and authenticity. From the moment the music commences, the conventions of the classic piano trio are shelved in favor of bold, expressionistic strokes; the musicians unravel meter and melody into a whimsical triple helix of bending, arcing, swooping lines, converging at unexpected junctures that demand both a mastery of technique and a joyous sense of adventure. "There are lots of guys who can play lots of notes, but I'm interested in playing ideas," says Jason, describing both the music on the album and his personal credo. "It's like a taffy pull - we start with a shared thought then yank it in every direction we can. It doesn't always work, but its the risk taking and recovery that's appealing to me. When I listen to Gary and Carp - man, they sound like there about to fall off of the ledge and I'm feeding them rope - and yet we always get back to one. Bob Dylan calls it the 'razors edge', and that's exactly it." Englishmen Gary Husband and L.A. based Dave Carpenter are witting participants in Smiths romp on the wild side. Husband, equally renowned on the drums, is justly acclaimed for his work with Jack Bruce, John McLaughlin, Level 42, and Allan Holdsworth. Carpenter, who began his career in the Buddy Rich big band, is at home on the sound stage of a Hollywood film scoring session as he is trekking the world in Herbie Hancocks "Gershwins World" project. But here in this trio, their sublime skills are put to the full test. It's a difficult time in the Jazz marketplace. Musicians and audiences are struggling to define what comes next. Smith has some thoughts: "There's a lot of hooey passing for 'new' jazz standards lately. I don't need to cover the Cocteau Twins to be hip. Keith Jarrett, Kenny Wheeler, Denny Zeitlin, these are my mentors. They're timeless. And the Rhodes is back! A lot of guys like that plinky Bob James sound circa '73 CTI. That's cool, but it's like Wheatina to me. I like that big, fat, glob of Scottish oat meal that Gary dishes out. His sounds stick to your ribs. I want listeners to take away something solid from this record, something you can't ignore. You don't have to like it that's fine-just acknowledge it."

Liner notes by KEN KUBERNIK:
Gary flew in from London by way of Caracas for the gig; not the optimal path to navigating an evening's worth of musical challenges that would cause Alban Berg to blanch. He vented his frustrations on a defenseless wah-wah pedal. (check out "Three Lies" to hear an especially vicious foot-stomping.) Carp operates in his own space-time continuum so there is no telling where he was just prior to downbeat. No matter - he's got stories to tell. During rehearsals at The Alley, a rabbit warren of knotted and gnarled woods worthy of Lewis Carroll, Carp digs deep into the Buddy Rich storybook: "So, we're on the bus, and Buddy's got the poor guy cowering." His voice starts to rise with the mounting fury of a lava dome ready to blow. "New phrasing... new bending...new sounds...NO TIME!!! What the f**k, do you think I'm running here!" I counter with my own terrifying tale which Gary embellishes with an authentic Yorkshire drawl, about a session brought to a thudding halt with this imperishable chestnut: "I'm not doing any fooooking solos, and YOU CAN'T MAKE ME!" And you certainly can't make musicians rehearse when they'd rather grouse. But is seems to build espirit de corps. A tune or two is given a light workout before the jocularity returns. An impassioned discussion of John Ford's "The Searchers" is no substitute for mastering that tricky ending on "Heyoke" - but what, me worry? Jason is beaming - it's all good. I hold my breath the entire show and only now realize that we did, indeed, capture lightening at full throttle. So think of your ears as eyes and experience this music as a soundtrack to an imaginary film. Cast to taste.

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