The Jazzcat

The Isaac smith Big Band at the Jazz Bakery

by on Dec.09, 2007, under News


Slide Show

I have for the longest time had an indifference to the word

“Big Band”. The music in the twenties and thirties did not always turn me on

and when the sound is simple, repetitive and easy to anticipate, I am the first

to snooze. I have learned that for me to enjoy a big band the best, the first

thing you must do is find out whose big band it is. The leader and his

philosophy about the music will give you some indication as to which way the

band will swing and how hard. Second, if you can get some indication as to who

some of the members of the band are, there is a pretty good chance that if

these are the cats that already resonate a sound that syncs with your soul,

your are going to dig the music.


When you say the name “Isaac Smith” and “Big Band” in the

same sentence, there is no question as to where you should be when the

performance starts! I have seen Isaac Smith in several different capacities but

never leading he own ensemble. He has been on stage in Monterey,

with the SF Collective and just recently with Jason Moran at a Performance in Chicago just a few days

ago. About a month ago, I was running the hill one morning in Kenneth Hahn

Park here in Los Angeles trying to get my cardio on. When

I reached the top, I saw from the rear a cat with dreads contemplating the

scenic beauty and next to him, a trombone case on the grass. I said “Isaac”

under my breath and if it was him, he would turn around and he did.


We sat and talked for awhile about the music, the business

of the music, how interesting it is that the dollars don’t’ always follow the

right talent, pursuing music dreams and strategies and what love has got to do

with it. Dedication, commitment and love play such a huge part of why creative

people are driven to do what they do. Taking the ideas that God has blessed us

with and sharing those with the world is a selfless feat to which the universe

pays great rewards; most of the time in payments of love and appreciation and

ever so often there are some monetary associations attached.


Tonight at the Jazz Bakery is one of those nights of love

and you have never seen so many musicians on this stage at one time before.

Isaac skipped doing it big and went straight to doing it huge! Six trombones,

five saxophones, five trumpets, two bass players, two drummers, two

percussionist, on vibraphone player and one pianist calls for some

extraordinary conducting, arranging, writing and playing skills all of which

Mr. Smith proceeds to grace us with.


What ordinary people do not seem to realize is that you

can’t just go anywhere to hear good big music. It is not like putting together

a quartet and rehearsing, recording or performing, this takes a lot of

coordination, the music has to be right, and time is an expensive major factor

to consider. From what I have heard from a few of these cats tonight is that

everyone knows and respects Isaac as a musician so they all really want to play

with him.



The sound tonight is phenomenal, rich and full of brass and

percussion from the motherland. “Alleluia”, a new song written to and for the

Lord above has all of theses beautiful players come together, screaming,

burning and producing some of the sweetest harmonies that free music can

produce. Whenever it is done like this, you must not pass up on an opportunity

to nourish you soul with something that is so pure it is like being present for

the birth of a new child. The circumstances surrounding the music are spiritual

by nature but exude the emotions of all the chaos of life before bringing it

back to a place of peace; from creation to cremation with a life that speaks

presence and meaning.


These combination of sounds do not come together everyday.

You have to be lucky to be present to hear and feel the music on you body. This

music is and should be different every time, every set, every night. It all

starts out with a dream; an idea that transforms into a passion and the end

result is a blessing.


Isaac composes music for a special someone and the spirit of

Africa lives in the music: a stampede of

thunderous, earthshaking sound as fierce as the rage of elements off kilter.

The heartbeat of the planet speaks and we live, breathe and feel the call. It

looks like twenty guys leave the stage and there is a smaller subset of the

band that Isaac leads. They run through some lovely versions of standards and

then, right in the middle of a tune, Isaac changes the tempo and takes the

music in a totally different direction. He takes the mid tempo piece and turns

up the gas on high as he takes his solo and plays for nearly twenty minutes

dancing, creating and riding on the rhythm. They go through a medley of

standards before we hear “Three Almighty One”, a gorgeous, swirling, ascending,

spiritual beauty about the light, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit!


Dan Weinstein and Kamasi Washington come back with the

larger ensemble and contribute a few compositions as well. They will all be back

at the Jazz Bakery January 21, 2008


Click Picture above for all upcoming performances!

so do no miss out! The Isaac Smith Big

Band with a whole ton of incredible players!!!


LeRoy Downs


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