By Bill Milkowski | Published August 2020
The idea of superimposing new melodies and lines on chord progressions of pre-existing compositions has been around since Tadd Dameron turned Cole Porter’s “What Is This Thing Called Love” into the bebop staple “Hot House” and Bird tweaked Gershwin’s “I Got Rhythm” into “Moose The Mooche.” Smulyan follows suit with Our Contrafacts, a sequel to his 2018 SteepleChase date, Alternative Contracts. The formula is the same and the playing is similarly fantastic.
In a stripped down trio setting with drummer Rodney Green and bassist David Wong, Smulyan offers new ideas on old themes, conveying them in bold, expressive tones on his baritone saxophone. “Drink Up,” a hip stop-time riff on “Angel Eyes,” has the leader blowing with gusto and bluesy, hard-boppish authority. On an energized romp through “Homebody,” based on “You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To,” Smulyan and Wong go toe-to-toe on the chops-busting Tristano-like line, with the bassist demonstrating some impressive arco work and Smulyan unleashing some of his most potent soloing of the program.
Listeners can play their own guessing game in regard to the contrafacts’ sources while still savoring those deep, robust tones and double-timed lines from Smulyan’s horn along the way.
Our Contrafacts: Quarter Blues; Drink Up; Homebody; It Happens; Miles Tones; Good Riddance; How Deep; Tritonious Monk; What’s Her Name; Sourpuss. (66:23)
Personnel: Gary Smulyan, baritone saxophone; David Wong, bass; Rodney Green, drums.