Close Enough For Love
Mike Smith – Woodwinds
Joel Spencer – Drums
Kurt Elling – Vocals
If jazz listeners want a taste of the many musical hats worn by Mike Smith, Close Enough For Love is the disc to check out. The record features Smith on alto and soprano saxophone, with a full woodwind ensemble and a rhythm section. If this does not sound that different from the norm, keep in mind that Smith arranged all of the woodwind ensemble music and played all of the woodwind parts himself, on various flutes and clarinets, with the assistance of studio overdubbing. To boot, the talented rhythm section features Julian Smith and Joel Spencer, while Kurt Elling is featured on a few of the album’s vocal arrangements.
This project is definitely one of the most stimulating recordings in Smith’s career. The album is dedicated to the memory of Frank Sinatra, Jr. Smith, in point of fact, spent many years playing with both Frank Sinatra and Frank Sinatra, Jr.—experiences that have clearly allowed him to perfect his lead alto playing, which is effectively showcased on this disc. Kurt Elling lends his wonderful vocals to two Smith arrangements that were prepared for Frank Sinatra, Jr.
In general, Smith has prepared terrific arrangements for the unique texture and timbre of the woodwind ensemble. It certainly helps that Smith performs all of the clarinet and flute overdubs with poise and clarity. His solos are also excellent, in particular his soprano sax work, which has not been quite as common on prior recordings. This is a highly recommended Mike Smith release.