return to casual

return to casual

Houston native Walter Smith III proved himself a tenor saxophonist to watch on Casually Introducing in 2006. He picked up on the theme again in 2014 with Still Casual, boasting a solid band lineup that he reunites on his auspicious Blue Note debut, Return to Casual. A lot happened for Smith in that time span: major sideman credits with Terence Blanchard, Roy Haynes, and many others, not to mention an appointment as chair of woodwinds at Berklee College of Music. Return to Casual finds him reaffirming fundamental ties with Taylor Eigsti on piano, Matt Stevens on guitar, Harish Raghavan on bass, and Kendrick Scott on drums. On the menu is a new set of compositions and a heartfelt reading of Kate Bush’s “Mother Stands for Comfort” (fun jazz trivia: legendary bassist Eberhard Weber played on the original version from Hounds of Love). Guest trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, who played on Casually Introducing and has enlisted Smith in his own groups for years, appears on “River Styx” and “Amelia Earhart Ghosted Me,” dealing on a high level with Smith’s two-part writing for tenor and trumpet. Eigsti and keyboardist James Francies engage in a fiendish solo exchange on “K8 + BYU$,” a revisiting of “Kate Song” from Smith’s debut and “Byus” from his 2010 Criss Cross release III. Then there are the farewells: “Shine,” an homage to jazz sages Wallace Roney, Jimmy Heath, and Ellis Marsalis, and “REVIVE,” a closing tenor-piano duet that lifts up the spirit of the late Meghan Stabile, cherished jazz presenter and advocate who died in 2022 at age 39.

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