June 4, 2013
Guitarist, Michael-Louis Smith, along with his backing band of Diallo House (bass), Stacy Dillard (tenor saxophone and soprano saxophone), Ismail Lawal (drums) with the addition of Victor Gould (piano) (for a couple of tracks) recently released their latest effort, First Black Nation, a multi-movement concept album inspired and informed by the tragic events of the 2010 Haitian Earthquake. Thematically and even sonically, the material on the album, which I heard live on this night, owes a debt to Coltrane‘s A Love Supreme in the sense that they’re both sensitive and sincere contemplations of life and the nature of God but with one obvious difference – Smith’s compositions also contemplate the terror and suffering of the Haitian people but with a great, humanistic empathy. Dillard at points on his sax had an extensive solos that mimicked wailing and screams of terror; other portions of songs mimicked what seemed like eerie calm before and after chaos, and the shaking and rumbling of buildings. But even with such terror, there’s a hopeful tone towards the end.
As is the case with jazz musicians, we’re talking about exceptional musicianship, and with a band that’s been together ten years, there’s an obvious and incredible simpatico. Although the material was played in a more straightforward fashion – it was their CD release show after all – there was still a sense that they could have easily improvised and know where everyone was going and what they were doing in any given sense.
Before I forget: i have to give props to Victor Gould, the youngest member of the group. His piano playing reminded me quite a bit of a mix between the seemingly discordant chords of McCoy Tyner and the smooth, playfulness of Horace Silver. Bassist, Diallo House’s playing reminded me a little bit of Mingus. Smith’s guitar playing owes a debt to the great Les Paul but smoother and Lawal’s drumming holds the entire thing together. It was an impressive night that i’ll remember for some time.
Check out some photos from the set below.
For these photos and the rest of the photos from this night of incredible, thoughtful and sensitive jazz, check out the Flickr set here:
The album is available through iTunes. You can purchase it here:
Also, if you dig great jazz, you can become a fan of Michael-Louis Smith here: