TOMMY SMITH: KARMA SPARTACUS RECORDS, £12.99 *****
Tommy Smith has explored many directions over the years, and Karma adds another to that list with a shift into a more groove- and rock-based idiom. The band made their debut in a superb concert at last year's Edinburgh Jazz Festival, and this disc, recorded the following day, bears out the powerful impression the music made that night.
Smith's saxophone playing bristles with invention and a majestic sonority, both in the up-tempo workouts and the more folk-influenced ballads, with their keening, Garbarek-like sound. Alyn Cosker's powerful but subtle drumming is the perfect driver for this kind of project, and is ably supported by Kevin Glasgow's virtuoso electric bass playing. Pianist Steve Hamilton both solos and accompanies to great effect in a band that is fulfilling my post-concert prediction that it may prove to be his toughest and most creative quartet yet.