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Forbidden Fruit [ALAC]

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★★★★★ ALAC
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Tommy Smith - soprano & tenor saxophones

Steve Hamilton - piano

Aidan O'Donnell - bass

Alyn Cosker - drums

① Spirit Of The Fallen Angel
② Eve
③ Tree Of Knowledge
④ Rendezvous In Utopia
⑤ One Wish
⑥ Within The Shadow
⑦ Forbidden Fruit Of Fire

Recorded April 2005, Tillie Studios, Scotland

Tommy Smith Group
Sept/Oct 2005 'Forbidden Fruit Reviews'

PETER BACON - Birmingham Post

'Great Depth And Manifold Pleasures '

The opening track of this disc from Smith's all-Scottish group is called Spirit of the Fallen Angel, and it is John Coltrane who appears to be the angel on this occasion. Drummer Alyn Cosker rumbles and splashes forebodingly before Smith and pianist Steve Hamilton enter in Coltrane and Tyner Style, and Bassist Aidan O'Donnell (a Birmingham Conservatoire Grad) starts to build the pace. But it's striking how as this 15-minute maelstrom of a track progresses, the Coltrane influences are supplanted by this quartets own self-assured and distinctive character. Forbidden Fruit has a consistent theme of Good and Evil running through it with music suitably attractive and dangerous. While The Celtish strain is here, especially in Tree of Knowledge, which is based on an old Irish Folk Song, it shows itself in a lyricism and melodic richness rather than in specific skirls or rhythms as on discs by Colin Steele and others in the increasingly important Scottish Jazz scene. Eve has a Gentle Latin surge to it, with Smith showing the sweet tone he has in the upper register, while Rendezvous in Utopia cooks with a hardbop spiciness. A disc of great depth and manifold pleasures which i think I'll still be discovering years from now. Smith tends to switch band and format with each release but it would be great if he could develop this one with repeated recording and loads of touring.


THIS loosely linked series of compositions based on the story of Eve and the Serpent is as good as anything that saxophonist Tommy Smith has committed to disc, and arguably stands as his best recording yet. His powerful invention on tenor and soprano is supported by an all-Scottish band featuring Steve Hamilton's elegant and intelligent piano, and a superb rhythm section of Aidan O'Donnell (bass) and Alyn Cosker (drums). The music provides conclusive evidence not only of Smith's still-growing prowess as a world-class musician and composer, but also of the strength of the current Scottish jazz scene.

RAY COMISKEY - The Irish Times

Although the influence of the Coltrane Quartet can be felt in Smith's young Scottish group, it's hardly a debilitating one; quite the reverse, since both the leader and his colleagues have a liberated approach as much to do with their own cultural experiences as anything else. Smith wrote the music, which he fixed around the conflict of good and evil in the Garden of Eden, so it reflects the drama, contrast, romantic innocence and betrayal of that fable. It does so superbly, with the leader sounding fresh and inventive on tenor and soprano, and the others - Steve Hamilton (piano), Aidan O'Donnell (bass) and Alyn Cosker (drums) - equally impressive and contributing with seamless brilliance to the ensuing dialogue.


You have to go back all the way to Tommy smith earliest albums made as a teenager in the mid-1989s to find an all Scottish line-up, but this new disc offers exactly that. And a beauty it is too, with Steve Hamilton's intelligent and imaginative pianism adding experience to a youthful but inspired rhythm section featuring two of the brightest talents to emerge from the currently bubbling Scottish jazz scene, bassist Aidan O'Donnell and the even younger Alyn Cosker, a powerhouse drummer at the heart of this band. Smith has chosen the good vs evil dilemma at the heart of the myth of Eve and the Serpent as the subject for his compositions on the project, and has drawn on a wide range of influences in the process, from an adaptation of a traditional Irish folk tune through John Coltrane's surging energy and invention. Each composition offers something quite different in their melodic, harmonic and rhythmic structures, including varying time signatures, but the whole thing hangs together well as an entity, and fulfills the saxophonist's aim to give this new group an identity and a repertoire of its own although they sounded equally sensational playing some of the saxophonist's older music at the Edinburgh Jazz Festival in July)/ A very strong contender for Smith's best outing yet on disc.


Tommy Smith's compelling saxophone work has of course been heard in a wide range of contexts, from solo performances to full orchestral settings. But on Forbidden Fruit, as Rob Adams points out in his informative notes, he has recorded with all-Scottish quartet for the first time in many years. A fine group it is too, with Smith's strongly constructed tenor and soprano solos beautiful complemented by Steve Hamilton's piano playing, while bassist Aidan O'Donnell and drummer Alyn Cosker bring out the light and shade in some fine originals, from the passion and energy of 'Spirit of the Fallen Angel' to the gentle reflective 'One Wish'.

ALL ABOUT JAZZ - John Kelman

You have to respect an artist who turns his back on the possibility of significant US exposure and returns home to his country of origin instead to give back some of what he received growing up. Scottish saxophonist Tommy Smith spent a decade in the US, studying at Boston's Berklee School of Music in the early '80s, joining Gary Burton's quintet for Whiz Kids (the vibraphonist's final ECM date), and recording a series of albums for Blue Note from '88 through '92. With all the attention, one would think that he'd stay in the US and leverage himself into a greater position of prominence.

Wrong. Smith, instead, returned to Scotland, becoming director of the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra and creating the curriculum for Glasgow's National Jazz Institute. He's released a series of records exploring a diversity of musical concerns, most on his Spartacus imprint. He's evolved a rich and complex musical personality, one that began by combining the intensity of John Coltrane filtered through Michael Brecker's contemporary edge and Jan Garbarek's icy tone.

Over the years his tone has warmed up, but he retains two of Garbarek's enduring qualities: a detailed attention to the purity of every note, and an ongoing interest in finding ways to integrate his country's own cultural milieu into the jazz landscape. And while he's better known in Europe, Smith's participation in vibraphonist Joe Locke's Four Walls of Freedom-appearing on the recent Dear Life-has generated some renewed North American interest.

Forbidden Fruit is his first album in over twenty years to include an all-Scottish lineup. Two relative newcomers, bassist Aidan O'Donnell and drummer Alyn Cosker, play with a confidence and open-mindedness that belies their youth. Pianist Steve Hamilton and Smith share some history-Hamilton was featured on Smith's '94 release Misty Morning and No Time and '96's Beasts of Scotland-but he's better known to American audiences for his work in drummer Bill Bruford's recent Earthworks group.

Forbidden Fruit is a fine summation of where Smith has been to date, reflecting an interest in longer compositional form while leaving plenty of room for exploration. Smith's relentlessly intense solo on the fifteen-minute Coltranesque opener, "Spirit of the Fallen Angel," proves him to be a true rarity: a player with plenty to say and the advanced language with which to say it. The quartet may nod to Coltrane's classic quartet, but it's anything but imitative.

"Eve, with an evocative intro from Hamilton, is lighter fare with a bright samba feel. Smith and Hamilton both take solos this time, demonstrating remarkable comfort developing across-the-bar melodies, intuitively supported by O'Donnell and Cosker. The modal "Tree of Knowledge" revolves around an Irish folk tune, with Smith's note-bending and phrasing suggesting more than a passing acquaintance with Uillean Pipes.

Cohesive and with an energetic commitment to group interplay, this group is clearly just beginning. Remarkably mature and well conceived, Forbidden Fruit suggests greater things to come. Where they'll be in a year's time is anybody's guess, but the story will be well worth following.

PETER BEVAN - Northern Echo

Notable for being Tommy's first all-Scottish group since he was a teenager, it quickly becomes obvious that this is a quartet which is really together. Steve Hamilton, Aidan O'Donnell and Alyn Cosker have all been heard with the Scottish National Jazz orchestra and can cope with a challenging work like this, from the Coltranish opening to the keening Within the Shadow, via the romanticism of Eve.

JIM LOVE - Inverness Courier

For his first recording with an all-Scottish group since the very start of his career, Smith explores the story of Eve and The Serpent. The opening track, "Spirit Of The Fallen Angel" is suitably violent but "Eve" is lyrical and Latin. The tripartite "Tree Of Knowledge", based on an old Irish air, maintains a haunting Celtic atmosphere with Smith's sax replicating the sound of the pipes.

"Rendezvous In Utopia" is pure bebop and "One Wish" reflects the romantic side of Smith's nature before the mood darkens for "Within The Shadow" and, notwitstanding the consequences, "Foridden Fruit Of Fire" provides an uplifting finale to an album which is Smith's most fully rounded and accomplished album, demonstrating the wide range of his artistry and the musical empathy of his sidemen, pianist Steve Hamilton and young lions Aidan O'Donnell (bass) and Alyn Cosker (drums).

CHRIS PARKER - Ronnie Scott's Magazine

Club regulars will already be familiar with saxophonist Tommy Smith's rhythm section on this, his first all-Scot recording since his teens: drummer Alyn Cosker deputised for Gary Novak in Joe Locke's Four Walls of Freedom band (also featuring Smith) last November; bassist Aidan O'Donnell is a member of Alan Skidmore's quartet.

Pianist Steve Hamilton and Smith are old-established musical partners, and their rapport, sensitively supported by the youthful rhythm section, constitutes the emotional heart of an album which explores the repercussions of Eve's fateful encounter with Satan in the Garden of Eden.

Smith's clear saxophonic debts, both to the questing spiritual earnestness of John Coltrane and to the slightly austere lyricism of Jan Garbarek, are sensibly channelled in this thoughtful but viscerally affecting suite into playing of great power and emotion, whether the quartet are addressing the tricksy time signatures of 'Within the Shadow', the tenderness of 'One Wish' or the folk-based 'Tree of Knowledge', with its brooding opening skirl.<br>

Smith, whose recent projects include everything from elegant sextet music with an all-star band to quartet albums of standards and duo work with fellow-Scot Brian Kellock, has now established himself as one of the UK's leading composer/leaders, and this album can only enhance his already considerable reputation in both those fields of endeavour.

Jazzwise Chart - Sept 2005

1. Miles Davis
The Cellar Door Sessions 1970 (6 CDs) Columbia/Legacy

2. Peter Apfelbaum and the New York Hieroglyphics
It Is Written ACT

3. John Coltrane
Live at the Half Note Universal

4. Don Cherry
Symphony For Improvisers Blue Note

5. Various Artists
Visions of an Inner Mounting Apocalypse Mascot

6. Manu Katché
Neighbourhood ECM

7. Wynton Marsalis
Amongst The People: Live At The House of Tribes Blue Note

8. Bill Frisell
East West Nonesuch

9. Brad Mehldau Trio
Day Is Done Nonesuch

10. Tommy Smith Group
Forbidden Fruit Spartacus

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