Brian Smith: Taupo (Manu/Ode)

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Brian Smith: Kids At Play
Brian Smith: Taupo (Manu/Ode)

Most New Zealand jazz is like the Kiwi: endangered, pokes around in the dark away from public gaze and doesn't take flight.

This year however is shaping up to be a good one: albums by Wellingtonians Kevin Clark and Charmaine Ford are both worth serious attention, and now a long overdue new album from Auckland saxophonist Brian Smith.

Smith recorded one of my favourite local jazz albums, his self-titled release of 1986.

In the two decades since them Smith has continued to play, did the Moonlight Sax thing (and whatever you make of that MOR album you have to concede Smith did it well) and now this which sees him firing hard in places (the coiling and exciting opener) or pulling right back (the restful Moon and Sand).

With the likes of pianist Kevin Field, bassist Kevin Haines, trumpeter Kim Paterson, guitarist Lance Sua, bassist Billy Kristian and drummer Alain Koetsier on hand this is an album of great depth and experience, all of which is underplayed in the service of the compositions which include Smith originals alongside material by Charlie Parker (Perhaps), Gershwin (Soon) and others.

The band also gets looser on the free improv Big Kids At Play.

Yes, this is looking like a very good year in local jazz.

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