The mysterious drummer on screen in the quirky Oscar-winning Birdman that his friend Antonio Sánchez wrote the music for, away from this unusual foray on to the silver screen Nate Smith had aready picked up kudos for his sideman work with the Miles Davis Bitches Brew period bass great Dave Holland.
Touring with singer José James at the moment, as a leader Smith has just made a significant impression with Kinfolk: Postcards from Everywhere, his highly evolved imaginative record that really allows us the fullest insight to date of his all round musicianship.
The American, who is 42 and was born in Chesapeake, Virginia, joined Holland’s touring bands in 2003, a year later also enlisting in the band of saxophonist Chris Potter.
You could not wish for a fresher or more original take on the intricacies of contemporary, complex small group post-bop that arrives infused with a tangy blast of direct melodicism. Holland switches roles to be a sideman and features on a couple of tracks including ‘Spinning Down’ above (Beninese guitar star Lionel Loueke is on the same track), and Chris Potter matches Holland’s example in following suit appearing elsewhere on the record while other guests include vocalist Gretchen Parlato. The core band has Smith with Kris Bowers on piano/Fender Rhodes, Fima Ephron bass guitar, Jeremy Most on guitar and Jaleel Shaw alto and soprano saxes.
A sprawlingly absorbing listen that repays multiple plays, even strings, which Smith and alternately Bowers have arranged, are included on a couple of tracks, the overall style a delight of in-depth pulsal and metrical sophistication anatomising the groove with surgical precision. SG
Old bandleaders return as sideman guests on Nate Smith’s debut