Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Jeff Colella and Putter Smith: Lotus Blossom

Capri Records
By Ric Bang
Buy CD: Lotus Blossom

Pianist Jeff Colella and bassist Putter Smith aren't well known to the general public, but they’re considered 'royalty' in the jazz world. Even a full type-written page couldn’t adequately list the musical artists and groups with whom they've played, and the compositions they've written.

Colella toured with Lou Rawls for 16 years, as pianist and conductor. Colella also has supported famed vocalists such as Diane Schurr, Anita O'Day, Morgana King, Dolly Parton and Jack Jones; dancers Gregory Hines, Savion Glover and the Jazz Tap Ensemble; and numerous top instrumentalists (including my favorite guitarist, Larry Koonse). 

Smith's associates include Thelonious Monk, Art Blakey, Duke Ellington, Billy Eckstine, Alan Broadbent, Bob Brookmeyer and many, many more groups and vocalists.  He composed the scores for several films and even played the role of assassin Mr. Kidd, in the James Bond flick Diamonds Are Forever. Oh, yes; Smith also writes music instruction books.

Lotus Blossom features these two master artists as a duet. The seven tracks include some originals — Smith’s “Desert Passes” and Colella’s “Gone Too Soon” — alongside Bill Evans’ “Time Remembered,” Miles Davis’ “All Blues,” Billy Strayhorn’s “Lotus Blossom,” Michel LeGrand’s “You Must Believe in Spring” and Koonse’s “Candle.”

The resulting album is one of most moving releases I’ve heard in years. You’ve heard this phrase dozens of times: “They sound like they’re able to read each other’s minds." Well, in this case it’s particularly apt, because Colella and Smith have worked together for years. This is smooth, softly swinging and beautiful jazz: music that you’ll listen to over and over.