ALL ABOUT JAZZ (August 2009)
“Let’s be honest; if you grew up in the 80’s, Molly Ringwald’s name on this recording is probably going to make you want to give it a try. Give it a try anyway. Pianist Peter Smith has put out a cooking hard bop album that has that classic Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers/ Horace Silver groove to it. Songs like “Once Again” and “Webs” have that full bodied front line courtesy of Charles Owens and with a high stepping back beat by Trevor Ware on bass and Clayton Cameron on drums that is simply infectious. Smith’s piano work is something to check out as well, with his off to the races treatment of “Mean Streets” or his serenading trio work of “I’m in the Mood for Love.” His duet with Ware on “Blues For LeDonne” is sly and slick. As for Ringwald, she has actually got a great voice! She sounds mature, comfortable and assured on “I’ll Take Romance” and “I Just Want to Be With You.” Smith himself delivers a heartfelt original “My Daughter” that will pull on your heart. Here It Comes is an incredibly impressive release by Smith who is certainly a talent worth paying plenty of attention to.”
"Peter Smith's artistic talents as pianist, composer, and singer reflect his inclusive and engaging nature as a man,” comments John B. Williams, internationally renowned bassist and composer. “This is a beautifully done CD with great performances by all. A truly memorable musical journey that one will enjoy taking again and again.”
“I met a great pianist (Smith) in New York, and then he moved to L.A,” Molly Ringwald related in a recent LA Times feature. “Then when I moved here for Secret Life of the American Teenager, he was the first person I contacted. We've been gigging around town, and it's great!”
“I’ve played the piano my whole life,” says Smith. “While at Columbia University, I studied extensively with pianist Mike LeDonne. I’d say my primary influences are the titans of the fifties and sixties: Miles Davis, Ahmad Jamal, Cedar Walton, Tommy Flanagan, guys like that.”
Smith’s playing does not shy away from the "swinging phrase," and he often emulates the joyful feeling heard in the music of greats like Wynton Kelly and Errol Garner. Compositionally, Peter owes much to Horace Silver and Bill Evans, which becomes clear when listening to "Once Again," "My Daughter," and "Put My Fears to Rest."
Many know Molly Ringwald as the superb actress in countless films, but few know that her singing career began when she was a little girl, making her recording debut with her Jazz pianist father, Robert Ringwald, More recently, she led the Broadway cast of "Cabaret," and the national tour of "Sweet Charity." Peter is the musical director of her ensemble, and the musicians on this album comprise Molly's "working band." Much of the original music here was tried and tested on the bandstand as "opening numbers" for Molly's performances. Although Molly only sings on two tracks, she is, essentially, the impetus for this group and this album.
The musicians’ contributions on “Here It Comes” are superlative. Charles Owens, Allen Mezquida, Trevor Ware, and Clayton Cameron play with great fluidity and effortless mastery. Every track commands attention, but if pushed for recommendations, we point you towards the following tracks:
"Put My Fears to Rest" is a gem, interpreted by the Billie Holiday of our time, Patrice Quinn. "Once Again” swings in the classic, "Art Blakey" style. "Mean Streets" features the incomparable brush-work of Clayton Cameron, and "Blues for LeDonne" is a real tap-your-foot blues, inspired by Mike LeDonne. "I Just Want to Be With You," which Smith and Ringwald wrote together, harkens back to the sweet standards of old, and Allen Mezquida's gorgeous alto solo reminds us all that the "walking ballad" is not a lost art.
The impetus for “Here it Comes” was the formation of the band to accompany Molly Ringwald. Molly and I worked together in my hometown, New York. We became friends, and quickly recognized that we had a lot in common, musically speaking. Then I promptly moved to Los Angeles! Luckily, “Secret Life of the American Teenager” brought her to LA last year, and upon her arrival, we quickly resumed our musical plans. I had already been in LA a little over two years, and was fortunate enough to have played with some of the greatest musicians here. We started gigging around Los Angeles and I could tell that we were on to something. Molly sounded great and the arrangements were sitting really nicely; it just felt good. I brought in some of my original music to open the sets, and the band was crying out to be recorded. I hope this is only the beginning of the sonic documentation of this great group.
Clayton Cameron is an LA treasure who has honed his enormous skills with Sammy Davis Jr., Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Clark Terry, and many others. He now works frequently with Kenny Burrell and Benny Green. I am so fortunate to peer over the piano and see him sitting behind those drums—he has a way of making everything feel right!
Trevor Ware plays the bass like it’s twenty feet tall! Trevor grew out of the vibrant LA scene of the eighties and nineties, the one surrounding Billy Higgins and Horace Tapscott and so many others. He has played with all of the greats, including John Beasley, Barry Harris, Tootie Heath, Wycliffe Gordon, Billy Childs, and the remarkable vocalist Dwight Tribble. He brings that large, beautiful sound (and a heart to match) to everything he does.
Allen Mezquida showed up on a duo gig of mine one night, sat in, and just blew me away. From that moment, I knew I wanted to work with him as much as I could. He’s from New York, too, and has logged in some serious time with Brad Mehldau, Sean Smith, Bill Charlap, Mark Murphy, Leon Parker, and Gerry Mulligan. We’re now friends and he’s a natural choice for any soulful and swinging musical occasion—a truly tasty cat.
Patrice Quinn was one of the very first singers I worked with here in LA. We play together all the time. She brings magic to everything she does, and is artistically uncompromising. She inspires the best in my playing and has a way of coalescing the band behind her and elevating the music in new and surprising ways. I cherish her and all of our work together.
Charles Owens can play anything. He cut his teeth with Buddy Rich and Mongo Santamaria, and now leads ensembles large and small all over LA. He performs regularly with the Clayton-Hamilton Orchestra. His playing contains both a sonic link to the musical heyday of the sixties as well as a surprising element of adventure. I am so glad we get to work together as often as we do.
I won’t impose on you any of my ideas about the music contained here, but I feel compelled to let you know a few things about the pieces and some of our choices. Half of the tunes are my own compositions (including the lyrics on “My Daughter” and “Put My Fears to Rest”). “Blues for LeDonne” is a tribute to my great teacher, Mike LeDonne. (If you don’t know his playing, you need to put this down and go pick up ANY of his albums!) With this tune, I tried to reflect on my work with him, and to emulate some of the things he taught me as well as Mike’s own approach to the Blues. I wrote “Here It Comes” when my wife was pregnant with our daughter, Roxie—enough said on that, I guess! Molly and I co-wrote “I Just Want to Be With You” and Allen was generous to let me write a tenor line on his beautiful tune “Webs.” We do Tommy Flanagan’s arrangement of his tune “Mean Streets,” and it’s a great showcase for Clayton! Except for “Mean Streets” and “Webs,” I was fortunate enough to write all of the arrangements for this great ensemble.
The last three years have been quite a trip—moving to Los Angeles, becoming a parent, playing with many great musicians. I am glad for the chance to document this time in music with “Here It Comes.”
–Peter, April 2009