By Dusty Ray
Matt Smiley might be best known for his work with Fort Collins’ own Subterranean Jazz Trio, but his own improvisational and compositional ability
is shown in full force with his latest cut, Quartet Art. Smiley is at one with his upright bass, driving the songs on with precision and depth. At times the album sings with the technical complexity of Chris Potter, at others it screams with the abrasive cacophony of The Mothers of Invention.
“Stars Fill the Sky” reveals the more toned down side of the album – a saxophone-driven piece (Smiley’s mentor David Pope plays tenor) that allows for the rest of the quartet to sit in the “pocket” and steer the track through seemingly heroin-induced relaxation. It is definitely one of the more “traditional” songs on the album, and has a certain solidity in its presentation.
The weird side of Smiley can be heard on the more uncompromising tracks like “Fehu,” “Othala,” and “Ingwaz.” These songs are harsh, unabashed experimental improvisations that are reminiscent of The Mothers of Invention album Uncle Meat at its strangest points. Smiley holds nothing back, and ravages your eardrums without remorse.
The album closes strong with an interesting rendition of Charlie Hayden’s “Song for Che.” Here the listener finds out just where some of Smiley’s influences come from, and he pays tribute to Hayden wonderfully.
Overall, Quartet Art is an interesting and daring cut that is more geared to jazz aficionados, or people who will “get it,” but there are a few hidden gems for the casual listener as well.