Jasmine Lovell-Smith's Towering Poppies: Fortune Songs (Paint Box)

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Jasmine Lovell-Smith's Towering Poppies: Lover's Knot
Jasmine Lovell-Smith's Towering Poppies: Fortune Songs (Paint Box)

Lovell-Smith is an expat New Zealander currently living in New York after having completed her music degree at the School of Music in Wellington. After nine years in the capital -- playing alongside Norman Meehan, Paul Dyne, Reuben Bradley and others -- she upped stakes for the tougher climate on the Big Apple.

On the evidence of this modest, often cautious but always melodic outing with her New York group Towering Poppies (trumpet and piano alongside drum and bass), the 28-year old soprano saxophonist writes constrained but quite delightful tunes (Darkling I Listen is an elegantly sinuous piece which allows for some romantic interplay).

She says the group's intention is to perform as a collective rather than showcase soloists, and while that is admirable it also means that over these shortish pieces (nothing more 6.44, average around 5 minutes) the expression which is there doesn't fully flower . . . and on material like the stately arrangement of Seven of Swords you long for them to break free and explore its possibilities as every now and again they allude to more free expression, especially pianist Cat Toren.

So some fine playing throughout, Lovell-Smith writes and arranges well, but the self-imposed constraint and economy becomes a restraint on what might have been, and too often the similarity of mood (slightly pastoral, melancholy, wistfully romantic etc) makes for an album which signals possibilities rather than delivering on them.

The beautiful When the Tide is Right at the end however is masterful miniature in which those parameters feel entirely right and the collective expression reaches into a quiet place of reverie. A real treat worth seeking out and drifting into.

Interesting band name too, if you get the Kiwi expression behind it. 

Jasmine Lovell-Smith's website, from which you can buy this album, is here.

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