Reviewed by: George Fontana…….
Piano man Larry Smith has been a staple on the Key West music scene since he gravitated south some years ago from Woodstock, New York. He’s gigged at numerous venues around town, but is perhaps best-known for his long running engagement at the Pier House where he was king of night time jazz. Times change, and Larry has transitioned with the times.
Inspired by the iconic Dave Brubeck Quartet, The Larry Smith Quartet includes Geoffrey Lowe on base, Tim Mayer on sax, Dan Brubeck (Dave’s son) on percussion and, of course, Larry on piano. The ensemble recently regaled a very enthusiastic audience at a concert at The Studios of Key West theater venue.
Most of the numbers were composed by Smith, and many incorporated a home town vibe. “Bill’s Muffler Shop”, “Prado Kongo Mongo”, “The Lighted Boat Parade” and “Coronation of the Absurd” are Keys-specific tunes which resonated with Larry’s local fan base. In fact, the gig had a nostalgic overtone as many of those in attendance had been regulars at Smith’s ongoing Pier House jazz jam.
In this new iteration, The Larry Smith Quartet delivered smooth, effortless jazz that would make the elder Brubeck proud. Larry’s keyboard chops ranged from soulful (“Premeditation in Blue”) to funky (“Thelonius Funk”) to playful (“Don’t Fast Text Me, Son”). And with a tip of the hat to the great Ella Fitzgerald, Larry scats with the best of them.
Geoffrey Lowe delivered a consistent base line during the concert; shining on his solos. Boston sax phenom, Tim Mayer was at the top of his form; also a stand out as he carried the melody for many of the tunes. Mayer is currently an instructor at The Center for Jazz Studies at Mexico’s Veracruz University. Displaying the characteristic cool for which jazz musicians are known, Mayer was unfazed when Smith made an impromptu request: “Say something in Mexican”. For the record, Mayer’s Spanish is impeccable. Guest vocalists Christine Cordone and Kathleen Peace and 13 year old ballerina Alannah Shanle (daughter of drummer Greg Shanle) contributed to the overall excellence.
The Larry Smith Quartet paid tribute to Dave Brubeck with their cover of “Take Five” – Brubeck’s record-breaking cross-over hit that remains a classic to this day.
Fittingly, Dave’ son Dan was showcased on a drum solo which was the highlight of the number. Cool jazz on a tropical night: The Larry Smith Quartet.