One afternoon at the Petrillo Bandshell........
The lineage of great trumpeters in jazz is perhaps more regal - and more intimidating - than any other instrument. Would you like your work to be compared to Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie or Lester Bowie (to name just the highest echelon of early, middle and recent jazz innovation)? Well, if your name is Paul Smoker, you need have no fear, for you have the qualifications to fit right in. A possessor of an other-worldly technique, Smoker literally wrote the book (his Ph.D thesis) on extended trumpet effects - growls, sputters, multiphonics, quarter-tones, extreme registers. But his improvising is grounded in traditional values; he can combine,say, Rex Stewart's tonal effects, the power of Roy Eldridge, and Maynard Ferguson's stratospheric upper register in a format that affords a fresh view of standards and a provocative original conception.
Born in Muncie, Indiana, raised in Davenport, Iowa (Bix's hometown - how's that for trumpet karma?), Smoker is a Midwesterner who dropped into Chicago on occasion in the '60s to gig with Bobby Christian's big band, among others. After a long stay teaching at Coe College in Iowa, he began touring with Anthony Braxton, with his own trio, and a cooperative quartet known as Joint Venture. He's waxed a fistful of fine albums on his own or European labels and now, with bassist Drew Gress and drummer Phil Haynes, Paul Smoker's ready to burn.
From the Chicago Tribune...
The evening opened with the inventive and scorching playing of trumpeter Paul Smoker, backed by bassist Drew Gress and drummer Phil Haynes. There was more passion, inpenuity and musical meaning in the first five minutes of Smoker's set than in all of Miles Davis' hourlong show the night before.
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