I don’t remember exactly how this date came about. It was Paul Smoker’s (Muncie, IN, 1941) idea, of course, and he related it in some way to his Standard Deviations (CIMP 186) recording of September 1998. He wanted to use Steve Salerno (Flushing, NY, 1961) again and this time replace the cello and drums with Ken Filiano’s (Patchogue, NY, 1952) bass. Then he said that he wanted to do something similar in deconstruction, like Standard Deviations, except that, instead of dealing with standards, they’d examine compositions from the guys. On the surface it sounded to me like a minor deviation on an old idea and I said unenthusiastically that I’d consider it. I hung up the phone and went to reference CIMP 186. It’s a great recording and only a few moments into it I was reminded of the massive talent of Paul and what a joy it was to produce him (because he never plays the listener cheap), how well he worked with Steve and how, having recently produced Ken on a couple of CIMPs (226, 219), I felt Ken was expansively at the top of his talent. All good reasons to proceed and no reasons, relevant to art, not to. So the date was set.
As the trio warmed up and did sound checks, I assumed this producing effort would largely be an indulgence of pleasure; how could it miss? In fact, only a poor, misguided producer could fail. Start with undeniable talent well combined and get out of the way.
The trio opened strong, already primed from a gig the night before at Rochester’s (New York) Bop Shop. Paul’s instructions amounted to something to the effect of: it went so well last night, let’s do the same. They opened with Open Season, started out, warmed up, and moved quickly into overdrive. In contrast, Steve’s Mirabile Dictu came next, a piece as spacy as “Open Season” is grounded and with an internal skeleton as opposed to the exoskeleton of Paul’s composition. Both pieces have fine projections and orbits, plotted and compelling in their development with seductive solos all around.
Elegy, a tribute to Lester Bowie, works off a faux funk vamp over which Paul evokes Lester’s spirit in Smokeresque terms. But dig how Ken steals the scene over Steve’s fragmented flow. And check out Ken and Steve’s pizzicato work, on See How They Run, during the fine tag sequence with Paul. Enjoy the fun and then realize you are seriously into the depths, surrounded by a dense forest of ideas. Steve shines, especially on this piece; eloquent and complementary playing which might be termed trumpet-style guitar. The vocal exclamation is Paul’s. And then it’s over to Ken who electronically becomes a string section. And from what depths of the soul and perverse sense of sequencing does his solo come? As I said, get out of the way; let talent have its way. It is a moment of extraordinary inspiration.
Ken’s Peccadillos was up next, a trio in pairings, which, like other Filiano compositions, has its own particular ambiance, here juxtaposing the real and ethereal. And again I am caught up in the statements without being aware of any obvious attempt at engagement: the time flies by
without obvious labor.
The final piece is Bobby Troup’s The Meaning of the Blues, a “pretty” piece which Paul intended to keep pretty; a quintessential late night ballad.
And there’s the concert: inventive, engaging, demanding and rewarding. It is the good stuff of life.
Robert D. Rusch – 9/19/00