I first heard the tenor saxophonist Tommy Smith on opening night of the Portland Jazz Festival earlier this year. Smith was a commanding figure in several areas of the festival, notably so in a guest turn with one of his favorite collaborators. I mentioned that appearance in a Jazz Times review of the event.
Vibraharpist Joe Locke’s Four Walls of Freedom quartet included Tommy Smith, Scotland’s impressive contribution to the world’s post-Coltrane tenor sax population. Performing in kilts, Smith matched the high-tension energy and stop-on-a-dime tempo and mood shifts of Locke, bassist Ed Howard and drummer Gary Novak.
To read the entire review, go here.
Smith is something of a Scottish cultural treasure. His precocious talent became known in Edinburgh when he was a teenager in the mid-1980s. A public fund drive raised money to send him to the US and the Berklee School of Music in Boston. At eighteen, he was playing with Gary Burton. Long since back home and active as a composer, educator, and nurturer and developer of young talent, he devotes much of his time and considerable energy to giving back to his country.
Smith shares his knowledge with radio listeners on BBC Scotland. In his latest series, he examines jazz standards in a well-produced, entertaining, thirty-minute program called Jazzlines. Smith’s attentions in the current installment are on “A Night in Tunisia.” Internet listeners can hear it in streaming audio by going here. The program includes various recordings of the piece and a live duo performance by Smith and pianist Brian Kellock. Smith’s inspired tenor sax personalization of Charlie Parker’s famous alto break is worth considerably more than the price of admission.