MICHAEL-LOUIS SMITH - Portrait of MLS
by Albert Brooks
Guitarist Michael-Louis Smith’s cd, Portrait of Michael-Louis Smith, is no freshman “paint by the numbers, hope you like something about it” effort but a propitious debut that announces the arrival of a seriously talented new kid on the block – one who can play, write and swing!
Portrait features all originals by Smith, and each of the songs offers multiple delights both as compositions and as vehicles for great soloing. As would be expected, Smith himself provides a lot of the fine soloing that is abundant throughout “Portrait”, but equally tasty and creative improvisational turns are taken by all of the musicians on the cd - Stacy Dillard on tenor and soprano saxophones, Theo Hill on piano, Gregg August on Bass and Rudy Royston on drums. Dillard’s and Hill’s contributions are particularly noteworthy and indicate that they are young musicians to keep an eye and ear out for.
The combination of titles on the cd - "Up In The Air", "Waterfall", "Whoa Jack!", "Dream", "Ghosts", "What It Is," and "Adisa" - I suppose offers some insights into the portrait that is Michael-Louis Smith at this point in his budding career; but more importantly they give an idea of the diversity of musical atmospheres/moods/stories Smith has crafted for his debut.
"Up In The Air" opens the cd and is a rhythm and tempo-shifting burner. "Dream" and "Waterfall" are a well-crafted waltz and ballad, respectively, that showcase especially beautiful and sensitive playing by Dillard, Hill and Smith; but, make no mistake, taste and musicianship abound each of the songs.
Michael-Louis Smith is a fine guitarist/composer who at times can remind one of Grant Green in his playing, but believe me his Portrait is modern and forward-looking. Each time I listen to this cd, I’m treated to something new and rewarding (such as August’s deeply resonant tone – check out "Adisa"). I recommend this cd highly!