Different Smile is a glorious buffet for the ear. Kaz Simmons' hypnotic voice is deliciously infectious. Her arrangements eagerly explore form and meter. This work comes hot out of the creative, sonic bakery. Listen to the unique sounds of her writing, use of spaces, and lyrical storytelling. Refreshingly uncommon and delightfully captivating.
Demonstrating growing "artistry," all songs are either written or arranged by Ms. Simmons and are woven to incorporate her talented music mates. Fearless to the prospect of outside criticism, Different Smile cuts a new path departing from her 2005 debut release, Take Me Home. Exit the Jazz Standards. Enter waves of fresh writing, arranging and expression.
"Mantra", an original composition, kicks off the recording with a 5/4 meter floating over light and subtle cymbal patterns by Dave Smith on Drums. The lyrics seem to plead for an affirmation in the midst of an emotional storm, that "all will work in the end." Strength can come out of periods of turmoil.
A beautiful interpretation of a Carlos Antonio Jobim’s composition follows. Start off with a storm brewing on the coast of the sea. The clouds quickly burn away and the journey on the "Estrada Do Sol" (Road to the Sun) begins. As the arrangement develops it is clear this road has many paths, masterfully explored through improvisation by Ivo Neame (piano) and Sam Crockatt (tenor sax.)
Whenever a singer grabs a song done by Nina Simone, inherent danger lurks. The unique sound and emotional power of Ms. Simone’s music left an indelible mark on any song she touched. Trying to replicate requires a delicate balance of respect to the history and of an eye to the modern. The interpretation of "If You Knew" is well arranged and performed. A well calculated risk.
"How Can I Be Sure?" supports an overriding project theme which contains songs of uncertainty and speculation in the storyline. Once this tune is turned over to the supporting ensemble, Ms. Simmons can rest assured she is in good hands. Deft Fender Rhodes work by Ivi Neame, brief but tasteful note dustings by Sam Crockatt’s saxophone, earthy and dark percussive expression by Dave Smith locks down the all the certainty this writer needs to be sure that this recording is worth a serious listen.
There is much more for the listener to explore so check it out. Different Smile delivers an intriguing second chapter to Ms. Simmons' accelerating musical journey.
These are my comments. I welcome yours.