Cats Are Stealing My $hit!
Warren might just be the only man alive whos played with Miles Davis and Janis Joplin. Not to mention Nat King Cole, Charlie Mingus and Aretha Franklin. Here, he collaborates with jazz virtuosos he admiresincluding Stanley Cowell, Steve Novosel, Kent Jordan and Chief Bey. You get far-out combinations like piccolo and tympani (!), marimba and plucked bass, vibes and flute, even a New Orleans slow blues on tympani and African drum (my favorite). Sound quality is staggering, particularly the tympani. Modern Drummer raves about Warrens courage and originality: part inspired art-house improv, part jazz club, and part beat poet coffeehouse so personal, so of-the-moment cats cant steal his shit. (#05332)
Give this one an "A" for audacious. Wizard percussionist Warren Smith's solo outing is part inspired art-house improv, part jazz club, and part beat poet coffeehouse. The grass-roots Mapleshade label is dedicated to informal low-tech, non-overdubbed recordings that let the artist free-flow. It's certainly not a format for hits, but it often does capture unformulaic, original portraits of a performer's raw essence.
Smith's rich background straddles everything from classical to stints with Charles Mingus, Sam Rivers, Nat Cole, Aretha Franklin, and Janis Joplin. And he made history, along with Max Roach, as one of the founders of the incomparable percussion unit M'Boom.
The cuts here span the haunting to the humorous, offering a timpani-piccolo duet, atmospheric percussion streams backing Smith's poetry/story-telling, timpani blues (melody and solos), warm, lyrical marimba and vibes, and duets with a rapper. A more conventional trio number, featuring exquisite piano by Stanley Cowell, reminds us that Smith is a swinging kit man as well.
Despite his choice for a CD title, Smith needn't worry. His art is so personal, so of-the-moment, that, ultimately, cats can't steal his shit.
No ordinary cat, Warren Smith has played with the likes of Miles Davis, Gil Evans and Charles Mingus. He's gone out on a limb with Anthony Braxton, Sam Rivers, and Sun Ra and he's popped the groove with Janis Joplin and Aretha Franklin. Professor of music and percussionist extraordinaire, Smith has most recently graced the public with a snappy new release on Mapleshade entitled Cats Are Stealing My Shit.
Inspired by a funny incident on a tour bus with Muhal Richard Abrams, the title track spares little in the way of hilarity. Having admittedly stolen everything he could from his earliest influences (including, but not limited to, Max Roach, Papa Jo, Philly Joe, Elvin Jones and Roy Haynes) Smith is quite familiar with the pilfering of shit from other cats. In his distinguished way, Smith enhances the "Cats" rap by playing the melody successively on chimes, gongs, wood blocks, and various drums. The other tracks move through different moods in shifting duos and trios of instrumental pieces and poetry.
It's not often one hears a slow melodic blues on tympani, as on the track "Blues for Dawud". "Most people don't take the chance of manipulating the pedals like that," confides Smith. "Timpani is a very careful, tight-ass kind of thing. If you miss the pitch it can be awful." His melodic style on the timpani developed from his involvement with Max Roach's percussion ensemble M'Boom. One day Joe Chambers came in with an arrangement of a tune and assigned Warren the melody. He took to it immediately.
"I like to set up a lot of different stuff to combine sounds," says Smith whose extensive percussion collection is reaching frightening proportions. "If something sounds strange, I've got to have it! But it'll take over your life if you don't watch out." Smith utilizes a large percentage of that stash on the album and he intends to use it even more. "There's a lot more I'd like to do with these pieces in a performance sense. I don't want to get constipated by unfinished ideas."
This is a showcase for percussionist Warren Smith. Working in duos with a variety of musicians, he shows his singular ability to get melody out of marimbas and tympani as well as other forms of percussion. The CD starts off with a dizzying processional by Smith's tympani and Kent Jordan's piccolo. Then comes a leisurely stroll through "Jitterbug Waltz" by the marimba and Steve Novosel's bass. The title track is a funny Smith monologue that somehow ties together Lenny Bruce and Muhal Richard Abrams and ends with some wild trap drumming. So it continues with Stanley Cowell and master African percussionist Chief Bey getting their innings. One duet with Bey, "Blues For Dawud" is a stunning, slow-rocking dirge with Smith pounding his tympanis over a rocksteady beat that kept me thinking of Julius Hemphill's "The Hard Blues". Halfway through the CD, poet and rapper Amirou Willingham comes in, first for a flowing rap with drums about modern alienation. Then, along with Smith, he recites and acts out scenarios about the homeless and hopeless who are still with us despite what the politicians say, over elegant percussion. This is great stuff all the way through. Among percussionists only Max Roach has explored as many venues as Smith does here, but even he has never done it all on one set. Brilliant and highly recommended work.