TRUST by the Sean Smith Quartet is truly a rarity a thoughtful, sophisticated quartet album adept at both swing and chamber jazz intricacy and delicacy. While group dynamics and ensembles are impeccable, there is ample room made for improvisatory creativity and, thanks largely to Smith's bass and Russell Meissner's drums, plenty of flexible rhythmic heft. As an added enticement, Smiths dozen originals are all singular, and often memorable, in their own ways. Rounding out the quartet are saxophonist John Ellis, whose tenor shares a bit that yearning tone characterizing (Ernie) Watts, and the crisp, pellucid guitar of John Hart. Smith, the composer, has a voracious stylistic appetite that ranges far and wide, from the multi-themes and shifting tempos of the bop-swing Betting Blind and the Wayne Shorter-influenced, flux-time Wayne's World to the exotic Homemade Japanese Folk Song with its weaving tenor sax and kora-like guitar patterns, and the Mideast feel of Izmir/The Maharajah, from its opening plucked bass theme to the snake charmer soprano long tones over tom toms giving way to a guitar solo set to a drifting shuffle beat. Then there are the infectious, jingle-like tunes reminiscent of Raymond Scott or Vince Guaraldi, such as the swaggering Lawn Ornaments and the two-step shuffle Ditty For Ms. de Medici. There s also catchy hard-bop (What'd You Say?), an evocative ballad (Voices) and a sumptuous feature entitled Graham Ewan for the leader's arco bass, over rubato guitar chords. By the time the CD ends with the captivating samba Margin of Error you realize there hasn't been any on this album.

~ George Kanzler, Hot House Magazine

JOHN ELLIS, tenor saxophone
JOHN HART, guitar


1. Betting Blind
2. Homemade Japanese Folk Song
3. Wayne's World
4. Lawn Ornaments
5. Occam's Razor
6. Voices
7. What'd You Say?
8. Graham Ewan
9. Bush League
10. Ditty for Ms. de' Medici
11. Izmir?/The Maharajah
12. Margin of Error


Ambient Records 2001


Sean Smith's beautiful compositions and well seasoned quartet are captured by Sony's new Direct Stream Digital (DSD) recording technology on the composer, bassists second solo CD "Poise".

"The quartet recorded live all in the same room which has a beautiful, warm, natural sound", said Smith. "It's all captured by the recording. We didn't have to wear headphones and had great sight lines to see one another. These are luxuries in the studio. There is so much air and life in the result for you to hear".

This recording is one of a few direct to DSD recordings to date, and represents a continuing commitment by Ambient Records of Stamford, Connecticut to make fine recordings of important music available to music listeners.

"I can think of no better way to showcase Sean's composing and bass playing skills than with this revolutionary new technology", said Ambient Records President Mark Conese. "Sony's DSD draws the listener into the music in the same way as a great LP played back on a good turntable used to. The resolution is far beyond that of conventional compact discs and even DVD audio discs".

ALLEN MEZQUIDA, alto saxophone
BILL CHARLAP, piano (tracks 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 12, 13)
KEITH GANZ, guitar (tracks 2, 8, 9, 10, 11)

1. Hook, Line and Sinker
2. Hugging The Edges
3. A Carol For You
4. Wise Guise
5. Short Ballad
6. Tropical Depression
7. Gratitude In The Minor
8. A Blues For Donald
9. Nobody's Hoedown
10. Poise
11. Niche
12. Red Rivers and Valleys/Appendix
13. Art Song


Chiaroscuro Records 1999


Recorded live aboard the SS Norway in the Caribbean, bassist Sean Smith's debut disc as a leader exhibits his growing skills as a composer and bandleader. He writes engaging themes, interacts with compatible sidemen, and encourages open-ended improvisation. The music is somewhat cerebral, but it swings persistently, enabling the soloists to freely express themselves.

Smith's bass playing frequently directs the flow and overall feeling of the music. With Ron Vincent's distinctive ride cymbal explicitly stating the swift tempo, Smith initially holds the pulse in check during the jaunty "Pipe Dream" by playing on beats one and three, and continues to do so through Allen Mezquida's tart alto saxophone solo. This sets up a tremendous sense of release when he deftly starts walking at the beginning of Bill Charlap's turn, inspiring long, bop-derived phrases by the pianist.

"Minor Peace" features the bassist's counterpoint to Charlap's elegant playing, and his own solo generates a sweeping momentum. Throughout the disc Charlap shows several aspects of his formidable talent, capturing the essence of every tune and demonstrating an increasingly individual voice. Although Mezquida's work often reflects the cool precision of Lee Konitz and Paul Desmond, he can intentionally become strident, as witnessed during his second turn on "Pipe Dream." In the course of "A Not So Sad Folk Song," his gem of a solo freely creates distinctive melodies and induces tension by subtly injecting blues phrases into the mix.

~ David A. Orthmann, JAZZIZ 

ALLEN MEZQUIDA, alto saxophone

1. Pipe Dream
2. Minor Peace
3. A Not So Sad Folk Song
4. Quiet Debacle
5. Blues For Beans
6. Secret Ballad/Song Without A Lyric
7. Take The Bullet Train
8. Enigma
9. Drop Me Off In Harlem




Music with a message? With a name like the Humanity Quartet and a CD titled Humanity, one might certainly presume no less. Music designed to help save the world from itself? Well, that's an exceedingly tall order. The Humanity Quartet, bassist Sean Smith writes, was indeed created with such a lofty goal in mind, "recognizing the need to bring mankind together through music." Jazz, he further argues, "is music for all people to enjoy. It is the sound of freedom. Human beings in the far corners of the earth might not always be able to communicate or agree on certain things, but thankfully the power of music . . . can break through the barriers of language, culture, politics, religion, race, greed, fear and inhumanity. In essence, it is for all humanity and there is hope."

Hope? Yes, there is always hope. Reality? That's another matter entirely. In spite of its stated purpose, the quartet (whose other members are tenor saxophonist Joel Frahm, guitarist Peter Bernstein and drummer Leon Parker) is unlikely on its own to engender world peace and harmony where so many other well-meaning groups and entities have failed. On the other hand, it can do no harm to espouse such aims and to set about doing whatever is in one's power to ensure their acceptance. From that point of view, Humanity (the album, that is) is quite admirable, even though it represents only a tiny drop in the ocean of tolerance and good-will needed to draw the diverse and largely inflexible peoples of the world closer together, as every drop, no matter how small, is useful.

So much for philosophy. What of the music, you may ask. And on that front there is good news indeed. The handsome program consists of ten by and large engaging originals, seven by Smith (including, of course, an aria labeled "Humanity"), the others by Frahm. Marya Lawrence adds a wordless vocal on the bustling "Samba for Evandrea." Frahm, the melodist-in-chief, is an astute navigator who swings at any tempo, and his supporting cast is hardly less so. While Frahm's burnished yet forceful tenor generally leads the charge, the eagle-eyed rhythm section cushions him at every turn, and Bernstein adds another likeable solo voice. In sum, a consistently pleasing quartet date, and if it fails to save the world, kudos for at least having made the effort.

~ Jack Bowers, All About Jazz

JOEL FRAHM, tenor saxophone

1. A Good Thing
2. Song For A New Day
3. Irving
4. End Of The Line
5. Humanity
6. Samba For Evandrea *
7. A Whole New You
8. Tears
9. Jobimiola
10. Spring Standard



Progressive 1993


Pianist Bill Charlap is joined by his good friend Sean Smith on bass for this 1993 studio duo session. Charlap's talent as a player is well beyond his years (just 26 years old), as he had already spent time as a member of the Gerry Mulligan Quartet (a demanding artist who brought out the best in musicians who played with him). Smith, though only 27 at the time these recordings were made, proves himself to be a well-developed composer, providing six of the nine charts. Smith's fat tone introduces the intriguing ballad "Tears," a lovely work that defies classification. The joyful leaps and bounds in the twisting theme of "A Smitty Ditty" features their great interplay. Smith's "Thank You, Red," a fitting tribute to the late bassist Red Mirtchell, was composed just two days after Mitchell's unexpected death. Charlap tackles "When Your Lover Has Gone" as a lush, very deliberate piano solo, while Smith rejoins him for an equally moving arrangement of the old chestnut "Darn That Dream." Expect these two old friends to work together again in the studio from time to time throughout their careers, as their considerable chemistry will be readily apparent from the start of any session.

~ Ken Dryden,


1. Tears
2. A Smitty Ditty
3. When Your Lover Has Gone
4. The Escape Artist
5. Ballad For A Late Spring
6. Donna Lee
7. Darn That Dream
8. February 8th
9. Thank You, Red