Adam Smale's a Manhattanite by way of Toronto, and the guy's amazingly nimble-fingered with an unusually light touch that nonetheless commands attention. Playing a 7-string guitar and fingerpicking, hence the loss of hard edges obtained with plectrum, his main influence was Lenny Breau, but there's a lot of Tal Farlow here as well, not to mention Martino, Bickert, and others. Too, Smale pays attention to Eddie van Halen and other mega-talented axehandlers, so that just-outside-of-jazz inflection and even occasionally fusiony vibe you hear every so often has interesting roots. Adam never got to meet his idol, Breau, as the tormented guy passed on way the hell too young at the age of 43 (strangled and at the bottom of a pool in a case that remains unsolved, though his wife is still the chief suspect), but he managed to work with Lenny's bass player, Don Thompson, who passed on a multitude of hints and insights.
Obviously those advices were well heeded, as the guitarist is daunting in his virtuosic acumen. More, his sidemen in the quartet craft moods, atmospheres, and terrain in which everyone shines. When pianist Matthew Fries steps out, as in Yes and No, the song becomes his until Smale re-enters and shifts the landscape again, counterpointing the keyboardist's whirlwinds back into a combination of thoughtful contemplations and speedy punctuations, pushing the borders of the abstractions even further. Then come cuts like Jazzenco, reminiscent of Al DiMeola's work in Spanish domains, and Night Drive with its distinctly rock/fusion insistence taking Martino to places he never visited, though he came close more than once (hm, maybe if he'd played with Tony Williams…). In the mood for a ballad? Check out She Knows Me, a night-riven composition that comes almost to a standstill yet imposes itself like a moody pool of blue ebony slowly drifting.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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