Jasmine Lovell-Smith’s Towering Poppies – “Fortune Songs”


It’s a hell of a way to start things off.

Displaying an enchanting lyricism atop organic compositions, Jasmine Lovell-Smith‘s debut album Fortune Songs marks for an introduction that couldn’t have been any more impressive, nor be any less a joy to hear.

Originally from New Zealand, Lovell-Smith moved to New York City to pursue her education and music careers.  It was both her hopes and experiences of setting down new roots which inspired the compositions of Fortune Songs.  And that potent mix of profound emotional reaction to the indelible, and very real, experience of a major life upheaval, it clearly influences the music, imbuing it with a flair for the storyteller narrative and a stranger-than-fiction dreamy pragmatism.

Your album personnel:  Jasmine Lovell-Smith (soprano sax), Russell Moore (trumpet), Cat Toren (piano), Patrick Reid (bass), and Kate Pittman (drums).

There is a rise and fall motion to this music.  Sax and trumpet spiral upward, while piano, drums, and bass are the sound of notes fluttering back to earth.

Lovell-Smith takes the lead throughout.  Her approach is non-linear, though follows a traceable path… just perpetually wanders off the trail without ever going too far to lose the scent of the melody.  It creates a sense of forward motion at a languid unhurried pace.

Lovell-Smith’s sax and Moore’s trumpet are often in conversation with one another.  They don’t finish each others sentences so much as they provide a chorus for their respective conclusions.  It results in an enchanting bit of layered sounds, like woven notes loosely bound.

Pittman’s drum work on this album is exquisite.  I so much enjoy when the person leading the percussion can bring an ambient haze with a rhythmic instrument.  It’s a quality that often has me listening to a battery of ECM releases, say, for instance, the drum work of Jon Christensen or Michal Miskiewicz.  But those are typically sleepy albums, and with an album like Fortune Songs, which has plenty of life to its tempos, creating that sense of hazy ambiance is a greater challenge for the drummer, and makes the success of pulling it off that much more delightful for the listener.  Of course, it helps when a bass player like Reid provides a deep undercurrent for drums that behave, at times, more like feather than stone.

Toren’s piano is largely unobtrusive, doing a lot of important, though largely unseen work to keep melody and rhythm glued together, and maintaining the prevalent mood of each tune.  The effect is a peek-a-boo interaction with the listener, providing tiny interludes of sublime music before blending back in with the surroundings.  It makes for a lasting impression one brief moment at a time.

The entire album makes for a lasting impression.  That it was a debut recording makes it that much more impressive.

Lovell-Smith met Toren and Reid at the Banff International Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music back in 2008.  This may only be of interest to me, but one of the first reviews I made on this site was for the Tunnel Six ensemble and their album Lake Superior, a group that formed after meeting at the same Banff workshop a year later.  Kind of curious now just how many albums have resulted from meetings at that workshop.  Also worth noting that there is some comparable lyricism between Fortune Songs and Tunnel Six’s Lake Superior.  If you enjoyed the latter, there’s no doubt you’ll enjoy the former.

Released on the Paintbox Records label, which is Lovell-Smith’s own label.

Originally from New Zealand, then living in NYC when this album was recorded, Lovell-Smith is now part of the Middletown, CT jazz scene.

Download a free album track at AllAboutJazz, courtesy of the artist.

You can stream and purchase the album at the artist’s Bandcamp page.

Available at eMusic.  Available at Amazon: CD | MP3