Greg Smith – Cluster 001 (2021)

Greg Smith - Cluster 001 (2021)
Artist: Greg Smith
Album: Cluster 001
Label: Brooklyn Jazz Underground Records
Year Of Release: 2021
Quality: FLAC (tracks)

01. My Pet Robot
02. N.L.X
03. Leolo
04. Ice 911
05. A Stable Genius
06. The Closing
07. Angels & Insects


The Canadian drummer/composer Greg Smith, an active musician since the 1990’s, compiled seven originals into an engaging debut record that revels in earnest rock expression and futuristic jazz reverie. Smith spearheads a supple quintet comprising the virtuosic saxophonist and producer David Binney, Berlin-based guitarists Vanja Kevresan and Alexander Maksymiw, and Californian bassist Logan Kane. The group’s simpatico is on display throughout and the quality of the musicians brings as much personal fire as stunning interplay into the fold of contemporary jazz music.

Those elements are immediately perceptible on the opening track, “My Pet Robot”, whose mechanical riff at the outset handles more than simple decoration. Terrific improvisations occur with diverse apt accompaniments guaranteeing the harmonic substructure. An early guitar stretch is well supported by fat bass reverberation and rock drumming, then is the bassist who enjoys the harmonic guitar carpets under his feet, and finally Binney who dazzles by discoursing with a combustible tone over a circular retro synth-pop tapestry boosted by drum fills. The saxophonist’s advanced vocabulary makes the notes ricocheting with reverb on “NLX” as he embarks on a cascading complexity that transpires with ecstatic energy atop of a two-chord vamp.

“Leolo” is launched in five, denoting sleek key slides and metric shifts with an affinity for the asymmetric. Mysterious effects are added for a darker tone but the scorching rock guitar of Maksymiw casts some light when a sturdy rhythm imposes alongside funk flavored bass lines. Also taking advantage of the mighty power of the electric guitar, “A Stable Genius” and “Angels & Insects” unpack elastic rhythms while conducting some fearless improvisation. The former takes the form of a groove-centered funk equipped with riffs that swell and fuse with the rhythmic cross-currents that take shape, while the latter is a stimulating prog-rock exercise involving knotty adjustments of tempo in the transitions from the A to the B sections. “Ice 911”, in turn, shows off acrobatic saxophone and an effects-laden guitar bantering with each other on top of a sextuple groove.

Smith convened the perfect group, integrating compositional rigor and improvisational openness. He has many reasons to be proud of his debut work.

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