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Into Silence

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Tommy Smith - tenor & soprano saxophones & bells This recording features 25 improvisations, folk songs, ballads and some Gregorian Chants within the beautiful and haunting reverberation of the Hamilton Mausoleum.
Product ID STS003
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Tommy Smith - tenor & soprano saxophones, bells

This recording features 25 improvisations, folk songs, ballads and some Gregorian Chants within the beautiful and haunting reverberation of the Hamilton Mausoleum.

★★★★ Peter Quinn JAZZWISE
★★★★ Linton Chiswick Q MAGAZINE
★★★★ Clive Davis THE TIMES
"a remarkable achievement and listening experience." Jim Love INVERNESS COURIER
"Fascinating" - John Fordham THE GUARDIAN

The Scream
Oran Na Politician
Ad Te Levavi
My Romance
Tibi, Christe, Splendor Patris
My One & Only Love
Ursa Minor
'S Ann Aig Posrt Taigh N H-Airigh

AMAZON .CO.UK Feb. 2002

Recorded in Scotland's Hamilton Mausoleum, a space often claimed to feature the longest and warmest reverberation of all Europe's buildings, Into Silence finds Tommy Smith striking a very different note from that which marked the first two releases on his own Spartacus label--one each by Smith and his wife Laura. Whereas those two quartet releases put the accent firmly on contemporary swing, Into Silence finds Smith with only his tenor and soprano saxophone and the odd bell or two for company, exploring a rubato blend of medieval chants, folk songs and melodic improvisations. Coltrane's "Naima" and the standards "My Romance" and "My One and Only Love" also feature in the 71-minute programme, but with no disruption of the overall mood. The result is a hauntingly beautiful album: Smith's now sculpted, now buttered lines conjure music of spacious, deeply poetic appeal, which can be recommended especially to anyone who enjoyed Jan Garbarek's collaborations with the Hilliard Ensemble, or such earlier and comparable solo explorations of extraordinary buildings as Paul Horn's and Tomasz Stanko's recordings in the Taj Mahal. Michael Tucker


Saxophonist Tommy Smith's third release on his own label is a lesson in aural physics as much as another exemplary foray into the fullest range of the instrument. Recorded in Hamilton Mausoleum, it might be an entirely solo effort - Smith's first - but the astonishing acoustic of the venue, with its remarkable reverberation and fifteen-second echo, means that the sound could hardly be fuller were Smith to have roped in the entire Scottish National Jazz Orchestra. Just as remarkable is Smith's selection of repertoire. Of the 64 tracks he recorded, 25 are on the disc and they include folk songs, standards, and medieval chant among the improvisations. A brilliant encapsulation of Smith's oeuvre. Keith Bruce

JAZZWISE March 2002 ★★★★

This is Smith's second release on his own Spartacus Records label which he formed in September 2000, and the contrast with the critically acclaimed debut Spartacus recorded in New York with Kenny Barron, James Genus and Clarence Penn couldn't be greater. In a brave move, but one that works brilliantly, Into Silence presents 70 minutes of undiluted tenor/soprano sax recorded live to DAT. While that may sound forbidding - I was certainly a little perturbed when my eyes scanned down the seemingly endless column of 25 tracks - the cumulative effect of the album is extraordinary. Ranging from the centuries old to the newly composed it juxtaposes Smith's own works with standards, traditional Scottish tunes and medieval plain chant. Playing its own part in proceedings is the remarkable acoustic of Scotland's Hamilton Mausoleum. The album's opening note ('The Scream') rips a hole in the surrounding silence. Gradually, from a syllabic scattering of pitches, a melody emerges whose overtones coalesce, ricocheting off the hard surfaces to form rich harmonic clouds - unearthly and utterly spellbinding Stripped of its familiar harmonies, 'Naima' focuses the attention purely on the limpid beauty of its melody, while the simplicity, poise and cohesiveness of the plain chant 'Libi, Christe, Splendor Patris' is extremely affecting. It seems apt that, with the exception of the opener, Smith's own pieces are all named after constellations - by means of repetition, extension and fresh invention each improvisation seems to ripple outwards from a central core. A gem. Peter Quinn

Q Magazine March 2002 ★★★★

Scottish saxophone star exploits some ghostly acoustics. Tommy Smith was still a teenager when, famously, he crossed the Atlantic and astounded some of America's architects of contemporary jazz. But much of his most satisfying work has come out of a fascination with his own Scottish heritage. Into Silence exploits the northernness Scotland shares with the Scandinavian countries. a polar-clean, ice-brittle sonic landscape, related to Jan Garbarek's ECM recordings. It's a solo album, but it doesn't sound like one. Recorded in Scotland's Hamilton Mausoleum - a building that claims Europe's longest natural reverberation, at 15 seconds - it's a music of unexpected harmonies, as Smith appears to conduct a choir of ghosts through folk songs, ballads and improvisations. Linton Chiswick

JAZZ REVIEW - February 2002

When Tommy Smith launched his own record label last year with Spartacus it was clear that this would mark a new era in Smith's career. This new set is the type of album that probably could not have emerged had it not been through his own label. Featuring 25 tracks, on the surface it appears to be more a scrapbook of ideas than a carefully formulated plan, but as the music unravels a coherent form emerges. Much of that is due to the sound, both direct and ambient. Recorded live straight to DAT at Hamilton Mausoleum in Scotland the acoustics of the environment impart an ethereal quality, with the echo from stone and mortar being allowed to play their part fully. At first this is somewhat disconcerting as "The Scream", on tenor like a howl of anguish in the dead of night, captures the attention immediately. But thereafter Smith moves through a range of self-composed pieces, tempered with a couple of traditional celtic airs, a few from the songbook of the prolific 'Anon' and then versions of "Naima", "My Romance" and "My One And Only Love". However, the mood and timbre of Into Silence is determined by Smith's phrasing, where the pauses are pregnant with meaning. Smith's tone too, especially on tenor, is wonderfully rich, seeming to glow like a burnished orb but understated to a fault. Each piece, each phrase seems to settle into the context of the whole album: there is no fat to this set. While it is easy to imagine that many of the pieces included could well have life in larger group settings - some have done so already - Smith's spare yet eloquent evocations are precise without being contrived. It's not often that the term 'organic' has some kind of relevance: in this context, it is appropriate. This is a very fine album. Hugh Gregory


THIS is a stunning beautiful album. Tommy Smith, on tenor or soprano saxophones, sets himself against the remarkable acoustic of the Hamilton Mausoleum in Scotland, where the echo lasts for 15 seconds. For this issue he has selected and effective and telling programme with two Scottish folk songs, medieval chants and several short improvisations plus three exquisite ballads, My Romance, My One & Only Love and Naima. Comparisons with Jan Garbarek's work with the Hilliard Ensemble are inevitable but if you've enjoyed those you'll certainly love this. Peter Bevan


Recorded in the Hamilton Mausoleum, the innovative Scots saxophonist explores and exploits its celebrated acoustic with a range of Gaelic airs, medieval plainchants, jazz ballads and original compositions. The solo sax acquires an organ-like resonance, its measured, keening sound reverberating, echoing and spiralling round space, creating its own rich sonorities and elusive harmonies as successive notes interact with those that have gone before. Those who attended his recent "Alone At Last" concert will be familiar with the effect but here it is achieved naturally, not electronically. Rather too much of Smith's own music is a test of patience and imagination but this reflective solo bombardment remains a remarkable achievement and listening experience. Jim Love


As there are no liner notes at all, I can only make the assumption as to what Tommy Smith had in mind when he went into the Hamilton Mausoleum to record this album on October 30th last year. Every number is played slowly, with long lingering pauses and sustained notes giving a haunting and often wistful sound to the music. The title of the CD gives us a clue. As the phrases tail off, and as the echo dies away, and the sounds reverberate, then we are left with total silence. This cannot be classified as jazz, although there can be no doubt that it is a jazz man doing all the playing. Of the 25 tracks, 15 are composed by Smith, 7 are traditional or anonymous airs, 2 are standards and Naima is, of course, by John Coltrane. The musicianship is wonderful, and one could envisage much of the music would be ideal for an appropriate film, although I doubt that this was in Tommy's mind when he made the date. It is solitary, contemplative music, played by a master musician and I am sure that Smith got exactly the sound he was after. His own compositions on this album, are tone poems rather than tunes. The music is always interesting and often technically brilliant, but at all times, one is conscious of the passion that Tommy Smith has put into this recording. The two standards and Coltrane's Naima are played straight and are superb, and some of the anonymous titles have the skirl of the pipes about them. From the opener Scream, when Tommy grabs our attention with this first note, way up high on tenor, through to track 25, Collect, this is beautiful, eclectic music from one of our foremost saxophonists. Geoff Burdett


One of Sheppard's saxophonist rivals from the 1980s revival in British jazz, Tommy Smith, also has a new solo album out, but in Smith's case there is a silent partner at work too. 'Into Silence' (Spartacus Records) was recorded in Scotland's Hamilton Mausoleum, whose 120 feet high dome creates an incredible, 15-second, echo. Faced with such an acoustic, Smith understandably chooses material with plenty of wide open spaces. His repertoire of limpid originals (named after the constellations visible through the dome), medieval chants, Scots ballads and folk songs from Uist, together with a few carefully chosen standards including Coltrane's 'Naima' and the show-tunes 'My Romance' and 'My One and Only Love', works superbly. Playing the sonic character of the building as much as his tenor and soprano saxophones, Smith conjures up some astonishing effects from a natural reverb so extreme that it's like an old-style echo chamber and effects-unit combined; indeed, the sound is often strikingly similar to that of Brian Eno's old records with Harold Budd. Smith's single notes turn into chords or harmonics, and are then overlaid by subsequent patterns to create a virtual orchestra. It's genuinely amazing stuff, and although Barbara Thompson once recorded something similar in a medieval French abbey, Smith has really mastered the form. Perhaps surprisingly,'Into the Silence' is also very easy on the ear, not that you'd want to hear it every day. It's cheap too: only a tenner (P&P included) for 71 minutes of the longest echo in Europe; from Phil Johnson

JAZZ UK March 2002

When music critics use the word 'atmospheric', it usually only means that they've run out of suitable adjectives. In the case of Tommy Smith's latest CD, however, it's hard to avoid the word, for the music here involves the projection of his glorious saxophone sound into the unique atmosphere of the Hamilton Mausoleum. The building, dating from the 1840s, apparently has Europe's longest and warmest reverberations', and Tommy exploits its swirling echoes to the full in a programme of contrasting short pieces that includes medieval chants, folk songs, ballads and improvisations. You really do feel totally surrounded by the sounds, and the delays produced by the building's cavernous structure give the music endlessly varying textures. Perhaps not intended fro those who like their music to be toe-tapping and finger-snapping, but anyone who enjoys the exploration of sounds and the creation of a quite distinctive ambience will find this not only accessible, but a fascinating experience. Pete Martin

OBSERVER March 2002

Over the past few years, European saxophonists have made the bizarre discovery that the instrument - the soprano model in particular - is ideally suited to churchy, folky, medievalish styles of music. Tommy Smith is one of them, and for this set he took the matter one step further by recording in Scotland's chilly by hugely resonant Hamilton Mausoleum. The effect of the 15-second echo is quite spooky, coating everything from Coltrane's 'Naima' to 'Tibi, Christe, Splendor Patris' in a patina of ancient mystery. Dave Gelly

TIMES March 2002 ★★★★

THE EARLY teen-genius coverage Tommy Smith received created ridiculously high expectations of the Scottish saxophonist. Having put all that behind him, he has been working away quietly in his own corner. The haunting solo ruminations such as Orion and Aquila on Into Silence may contain echoes of both Jan Garbarek's keening improvisations and Barbar Thompson's hypnotic one-woman disc Songs from the Centre of the Earth, but Smith is piecing together his own intense fusion of jazz and folk. Clive Davis

GUARDIAN March 2002

This is one for minimalists and ambient ruminators: an often exquisite exploration of saxophone tone and a naturally musical space. Scottish saxophonist Tommy Smith made this unaccompanied recording in his country's Hamilton Mausoleum: its echo would border on the clamorous if a remarkable softness didn't moderate it. There are 25 short tracks over more than 70 minutes: a taxing assignment that even Jan Garbarek (a significant Smith inspiration) might have trouble carrying out. Smith has shrewdly mixed a few standards with his improvisations and the occasional foray into Scottish folk and dance music. But the astonishing echo curbs much in the way of uptempo playing, and the prevailing mood of ghostly spaciousness is varied by really memorable themes. John Coltrane's Naima is a beautiful swirl of saxophone sound, its harmonic implications deepened by the resonances. Fascinating. John Fordham

Charlie Parker, when once asked about his religion, said, 'I'm a devout musician,' and, in a sense, all art - and particularly music - is a religious act because it has to do with the artist's relationship to the universe and is often a celebration of life and humanity. These thoughts are provoked by saxophonist Tommy Smith's audacious and profound solo album recorded live in the Hamilton Mausoleum in Scotland last October. This cavernous building has a vast observatory-shaped dome and its vibrant acoustic has the longest natural echo in Europe (15 seconds), which at times can add an orchestral-like background to the music here. Smith visited the building to absorb the atmosphere and acoustic, but then allowed the idea of the project to incubate for over a year before tackling it. In the end, he recorded over 60 pieces inspired by his view of the constellations above the dome, but chose just 25 of them for this album: two folksongs, three 20th-century ballads, five medieval chants and 15 improvisations. From the opening 'Scream', which splinters the silence, a sense of the numinous pervades the album, and Smith's playing throughout is intensely focused and eloquent. 'Oran na Politician', a traditional South Uist folksong about the Whisky Galore saga, is given a jaunty soprano sweet-and-sad outing. Smith's inspiration never seems to falter and he never over-plays (he said it took much courage to know when not to play in the resonant acoustic). 'Tibi Christe splendor patris' is given a profoundly tender and quiet treatment on tenor, with pauses and sweetly compassionate high notes. He makes ancient and modern music sound strangely compatible and in his ecstatic renderings makes Coltrane's 'Naima' and even Rodgers and Hart's 'My Romance' sound like prayers. This is a unique album.
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