Friday, Jun 14, 2013 - 8:00 pm, $18.00
Guitarist and composer Michael-Louis Smith is more than a musician; he's a soulman and an innovator. Blending the classic with the modern, Michael and his band have emerged as mentors and highly sought-after heavyweights in the NYC jazz scene. Since the age of 17, Michael has led ensembles and played hundreds of shows around the world, including the Blue Note, Troubadour, and also the famed Apollo Theater as guitarist for international Afrofunk/soul star Nneka. Today, he's touring in support of his latest breakthrough album First Black Nation, a forward-thinking, multi-movement instrumental that tells a story about the 2010 Haiti Earthquake. The album exemplifies the telepathic relationship he's built over the last 10 years with co-conspirators Stacy Dillard (sax), Diallo House (bass), Ismail Lawal (drums), and also newcomer Victor "Baby Boy" Gould (piano).
"Michael-Louis Smith wails, wahs, and wows crowds," wrote music blog Smoovtunes. "When he improvises, Michael holds the audience in his palm. He shuts his eyes, digs into his guitar, and exudes soul with every note he plays," the article continued. Drawing from Miles Davis to Wes Montgomery and Bob Marley to Fela Kuti - an eclectic mix - Michael has developed a unique, improvisational style that electrifies crowds and pushes the boundaries of music. On June 14th, Michael and his band will play the Linda in Albany, NY, where they will celebrate their 10 years together, unveil music from their upcoming album First Black Nation, and treat the audience to brand new, previously unheard compositions.
MICHAEL-LOUIS SMITH - First Black Nation
By Albert Brooks
First Black Nation is guitarist Michael-Louis Smith's second cd and, like his first (Portrait of MLS), showcases this talented musician's prodigious writing skills. First Black Nation, however, illuminates a different side of the artist - one that in my estimation will add significantly to his profile.
The unifying theme of Smith's sophomore product is the Haitian earthquake of 2010; and with it Smith, exhibiting a profound sensitivity, presents a very affecting musical-historical paean to this epic tragedy. You cannot listen to this musical homage and not be touched by its beauty, pathos and heart-felt emotionality.
The cd opens with "In The Hot Sun", a pretty calypso that features fine single-note soloing by Smith and an equally virtuosic turn by Stacy Dillard, who adds some Rollins-esque filigree to his sprightly solo on soprano sax. The joyous mood of this piece is however displaced by the rumbling "Earthquake" effectively re-created by Ismail Lawal's drum solo. With "Voices in the Rubble", Smith crafts a hauntingly lyrical portrayal of the devastation and horror caused by the natural disaster. The song is delivered with poignant, variably-pitched outcries by Dillard as an evocative expression of human suffering. "Aftermath", which follows, is a 6/8 threnody of such beauty that its sadness is palpable.
"A Foul Wind" is next and is superbly rendered as a solo effort by bassist, Diallo House; this launches into "Mass Grave" with Dillard out front on tenor, but with House continuing to make his strong, resonant presence felt. The grace that Dillard displays in each of these songs confirms that his is the perfect voice to give expression to Smith's musical vision on this project. "Aftershock" again features Lawal and, with "Aftermath Postlude", we hear a tender reprise of an earlier theme presented rubato this time by pianist, Victor Gould.
The cd concludes with "Haitian Lament" and "Hope" - the former with Smith and Dillard initially sharing unison lines leading into Smith's distinctive solo, articulating his facile mastery of his instrument. Dillard follows on Smith's heels with another intervallic star turn on soprano, after which he and Smith return to their lively interplay on this soulful tune. "Hope" offers Smith the last word on the subject at hand, and with it he delivers a powerfully sublime comment on the resiliency of the human spirit.
The title of this cd, I believe, is a reference to the fact that the Haitian Revolution, along with the American Revolution, were the only two rebellions before the 19th century to result in permanent independence from a European colonial power; and, as such, it also serves to note our shared kinship with the island nation. The musical acknowledgment that Smith gives to our brotherhood with the Haitian people with this cd is a very, very special tribute that reflects equally well on both his humanity and artistry.
Take note, Michael-Louis Smith is a musician to be reckoned with.
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