Pianist Jeff Colella and bassist Putter Smith recently released their new album “Lotus Blossom” on The American Jazz Institute/Capri recording label. The album features arrangements, plus one original piece each by Colella and Smith. The feel of the individual songs live up to the album's name; each piece quietly unfolding. However, the album as a whole feels a little samey. Where the album really shines is in the two original pieces, Smith's “Dessert Passes" and Colella's “Gone Too Slow”.
“Dessert Passes” is the first song on the album, and one of the best. The piece is laid-back and enjoyable. Colella almost seems to be playing from a chaise lounge. His cool feel is balanced by Smith's warm sound and melodic declarations. Smith's writing creates a thematic structure that keeps the listener engaged, with the two players sharing the spotlight.
The arrangement of Ray Noble's “The Very Thought of You” featured some lovely playing by both Colella and Smith. Colella's delicate touch and lovely harmonics were a highlight early on, though the piece took some time to settle in. The piece features Colella and Smith as a balanced duo, later featuring a solo by Smith. The solo, although warm and expressive, included scat which distracted the ear from the sound of the bass.
The thematic idea of this album is original and comes off prettily, and the pieces stand alone well, but as a whole, the album gets a little monotonous. Pieces tend to drift into each other with little definitive end or beginning. The grand exception is the pieces written by the performers themselves. Colella and Smith have a clear talent for thematic and melodic writing that is sometimes overshadowed when they are playing someone else's music.
The second clear example of the talented original writing on this album is Jeff Colella's “Gone to Slow”. As if making a declaration, “Gone too Slow” lives up to its name by adding some enigmatic energy to the album. Colella and Smith share the melody beautifully and modulations are rich with an air of mystery. As in a good novel, listeners are pulled gently through, waiting to know what will happen in the end.
Colella and Smith have been collaborating informally for twenty years, and this shows in their album. They play well together, often as if they were one. It can be hoped that their next album will focus on their outstanding original work. Find this album on nimbit music and amazon.