Telling Tales

Artist: Harrison Smith

Date of Release: 10/11/2008

Catalogue no: 33JAZZ185

Label: 33jazz

Price: £10

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Track Listing







Tea with T




Questions, questions




Upon reflection




A Bird in the Hand (for Alex Hand)




Around we go




Changes in motion




On the edge




In shadow










Appearances by

Liam Noble

Contemporary jazz




01/10/2009 Cadence Magazine U.S.A.

Although not well-known in the U.S., reed player Harrison Smith is highly regarded in his native U.K. He’s worked in a variety of contexts, including the South-African township music-based District Six, with the avant-garde London Improviser’s Orchestra, and with the Free Jazz Quartet with Paul Rutherford, Eddie Prevost, and Tony Moore. (The latter’s Premonitions was an album that found its way onto my 10 best list back in 1990.) Telling Tales is the second album Smith has recorded with his quartet. Left to his own devices, Smith seems to lean more toward the center than the above left-field associations would seem to suggest. But his music is no less rich for that. Smith and his group come at this material (all originals by Smith) with an energy that brings vigor and depth to the music. On the opener, “Tea With T,” an ostinato bass line accompanies Smith’s statement as Noble decorates his lines with rich, slightly askew harmonies that make the music seem less run-of-the-mill. Smith plays bass clarinet on this track (and “A Bird In The Hand”). He possesses a rich full-bodied tone on the instrument and, while Dolphy is an obvious influence, Smith has his own take on the instrument. The themes in general are memorable, not generic and Smith and Noble are given plenty of space to solo. The opening moments “On The Edge,” an energetic duet between Smith and Clifford, is the most overt nod to his free jazz abili¬ties. Although most of the numbers are medium to uptempo, “In Shadow” is a lovely drifting ballad that’s one of the disc’s highlights. Telling Tales is a fine album well-worth hearing and good introduction to Smith and company.


05/08/2009 Vincenzo Roggero allaboutjazz.com Italy ****

Harrison Smith is not especially well known on this side of the Channel and records in his name can be counted on the fingers of one hand. A real shame because Smith is a musician, important, honest, comprehensive, stimulating, every recording is a little jewel to be enjoyed in its many facets and be appreciated for the solid organization and execution. Telling Tales, a classic album that shares with some intrinsic sixties Blue Note recordings, not so much the new ways for to jazz to come but metabolizes and summarizes the paths inside / outside that have characterized the affairs of African American music.
The initial "Tea with T" is Africa seen through the curious eyes of European music, the piano that tells stories assisting in the hypnotic percussive plot, double bass which dictates the pulse and breath of the song, the bass clarinet that smells ebony, mottled, tribal, dissonant (reminds you of Carnet de route the trio Romano / Texier / Sclavis?). A wonder! Free improvisation that slowly comes together in a harmonious and creative dialogue between the musicians in a melodious composition is "On the Edge". "Hybrid" is a slow, hypnotic crescendo, a climax that mounts slowly in intensity in the manner of Ravel's Bolero
Harrison Smith has a wonderful and original voice with all three horns, can tell stories with the wisdom and detachment of the greatest and with Telling Tales, a disc rich in character, played with great intensity and equal subtlety, a true and proper declaration of his love to that galaxy indefinite called jazz.


27/04/2009 Edward Blanco Ejazznews U.S.A.

British saxophonist Harrison Smith may not be well known to American audiences but his latest CD tells a musical tale sure to convince those who dare sample it, that this album is well worth the spin. With Liam Noble on piano, Dave Whitford on bass and Winston Clifford rounding out the rhythm section, the quartet holds together in a very cohesive groove.
Starting out with Whitford's emotive bass lines on the opening “Tea with T,” the music challenges the listener with firm improvised phrases from Smith's bass clarinet in a non-standard approach to bop. His unusual tenor kicks starts the perky composition “Questions, Questions” featuring splashing cymbal accents from Clifford in what is a nice hard-bop beat pulsating with energy driven by Smith's furious solos.
On “Upon Reflection,” Whitford takes the first sixty seconds to set up the leader's entrance with a warm bass intro that Smith engages in a soft bluesy style painting the tune a ballad which is taken for a beautiful gentle journey by pianist Noble's inspiring play. Noble emerges once again introducing the humble “Around We Go,” this time featuring the reed man on the soprano laying down soothing phrasings marking this tune a sure winner. “Changes In Motion” also has Smith howling on soprano, the finale “Hybrid” leaves no doubt that you've just experienced one superb modern jazz recording.
“Telling Tales” reveals the story of an unheralded musician in Harrison Smith yearning to breathe free from the normal musical ties that binds us by telling his story in a delicious musical tale one will want to hear often.


17/02/2009 Glen Astarita All About Jazz.com U.S.A.

British reed man Harrison Smith is known as both an inside and outside player, but his playing is rooted within traditional jazz attributes that interweave among the more progressive slants. With this quartet release, the artist injects a series of wide-ranging propositions into a crop of largely, memorable compositions marked by great depth and capacious musical environs. In effect, it's a nicely-structured yet democratic engagement as the respective musicians serve as key cogs in the overall jazz machine. Compositional excellence and superb improvising yield the winning edge here. The band launches the gala with "Tea with T," where bassist Dave Whitford sets matters in motion with a booming ostinato, followed by an endearing melody and Smith's mood-evoking bass clarinet lines. Otherwise, Smith and pianist Liam Noble weave in and out of the multifarious swing and bop pulses, amid a few tender moments interspersed throughout. On "Upon Reflection," Smith conjures up lucid imagery of a late night jazz joint performance via his bluesy tenor sax phrasings dappled with subtle nuances. Within many passages, the band professes asymmetrical doses of grace and power, which is a notion transmitted by Smith's blithe soprano sax lines atop a buoyant mid-tempo swing during "Around We Go. The quartet generates the big knockout punch in spots and tempers the pitch when it makes sense. Hence, the ensemble spawns a tight-knit panorama, featuring perky bop grooves and torrid crescendos. Smith skirts the free zone and seemingly battles drummer Winston Clifford for a rite of passage with the up-tempo, "On The Edge." To that end, the leader of this date presents a divergent track mix that alludes to a comprehensive program, sans any frills or gimmicks. Smith's qualitative music-making looms rather large among the hordes of jazz ensemble offerings that hit the streets on a regular basis.


08/02/2009 Vittorio LoConte MusicBoom Italy ****

`Telling Tales` by multi instrumentalist Harrison Smith (tenor, soprano saxophone and bass clarinet) strikes immediately with his approach to the music, inserting something of his own, something which is a perfect balance between structure and freedom.


02/02/2009 Robert Shore Jazz Wise ****

Smith records infrequently – his previous quartet release as a leader, also with Noble, was 1998’s Outside Inside – but when he does enter the studio, the results are usually worth savouring. And so it is with Telling Tales, a set of nine originals combining handsome and instantly hummable themes with some satisfying complex soloing. Ballard “upon Reflection” shows that Smith the saxophonist can lead the line in fairly straight-laced fashion, but elsewhere he revels in the different tones and textures offered by the various instruments he plays; the silky delivered sax themes are smartly disrupted by interpolated squawks and wheezes and admiral freeform invention. First track “Tea with T” sets the pattern, beginning with a simple repeated piano figure, adding a sinuous repeated reed motif, then building with smooth intricacy until Noble, one of the piano worlds more left-field thinkers and a perfect sparring partner, complicates the model with a few more eccentric thoughts, clearing the way for Smith to enter the fray and honk the piece to new summits. The appropriately titled “On the Edge” features a bit of an edgy freaking out, while “A Bird in the Hand” is home to some warmly comic invention. And so it goes on; great stuff.


08/12/2008 Chris Parker

..as sleevenote writer Brian Morton points out, the ease with he combines apparent opposites (structure/freeform, smooth/abrasive, harmony/dissonance) is a hallmark of his highly individual style.….this is deceptively subtle and rich music-making from an under-recorded figure.


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