This is for all the folks, and there are many, who say that there’s no jazz in Salt Lake City, let alone Utah, despite the name of its NBA team. This quintet, Q’d Up, is here to negate that statement. The founder is multi-instrumentalist Ray Smith who started a band with fellow Brigham Young University professors in 1983. The were first dubbed the Faculty Jazz Quintet but have carried the current name since 1998. Going Places is their seventh album (we’ve learned that the band will also release an eighth album of edgier and more backbeat-oriented tunes, called Dawn Fire Mist) as Smith will retire and keyboardist Steve Lindeman has relocated. Going Places is an eclectic album with fusion, Latin, and straight-ahead jazz. The other members are drummer/vibraphonist Jay Lawrence, guitarist Ron Saltmarsh, bassist Eric Hansen, and guest vocalist Hayley Kirkland.
The opening title track features swinging tenor from Smith and swirling organ from Lindeman in a melodic groove. Smith, by the way, plays over thirty instruments including other saxophones, flute, clarinet, and bass clarinet on this outing. We also hear glowing solos from guitarist Saltmarsh and Lindeman on organ. Several songs have a Latin motif, beginning with Saltmarsh’s bouncy “Arumana,’ featuring Lindeman on piano, more soaring tenor from Smith, and a thoughtful, deliberate turn from Saltmarsh. “Perfect Pizza’ Begins as an organ-fueled, tenor led excursion in the vein of those great Jimmy Smith-Stanley Turrentine tunes before Lindeman switches to piano for his solo while Hanson and Lawrence keep the groove steady, and the quintet restates the theme. “Tchoupitoulas,” is a NOLA-oriented tribute, and one that first appeared as an instrumental on Lawrence’s solo album, Sonic Paragon. It introduces us to the vocals of Hayley Kirkland, one of the most prominent jazz and commercial vocalists in the Mountain West (big fish in a smaller pond). She and Lindeman wrote the lyrics that she delivers with a mix of vocalese and soul, soaring into the high registers with her expansive range.
Placed midway in the album is Lawrence’s shimmering ballad “Timpanogos Snowfall,” featuring Lindeman on Fender Rhodes, Smith on sax, and the composer on vibes while guest Ron Brough handles the drums. The samba “Muito Obrigado” is the next of four Latin infused tunes while “Cole Portal” obviously nods to the famed composer as Lawrence uses several Porter chord progressions, varies the meters, and adds new melodies. “Precipice of Eternity” is a great title and has Smith blowing majestically over Lindeman’s comping before we hear Saltmarsh and the keyboardist engage in some electronic statements, after which Smith takes a fervent, soaring soprano sax solo, Lindeman steps out on the keys, and Lawrence re-engages all for a restatement of theme, making for a standout track.
Lindeman’s “Escarlatta” was penned for his daughter, Scarlett. It begins with an echoing bassline from guest fretless bassist Matt Larsen, later becoming the second vocal vehicle for Kirkland, and Smith’s bass clarinet. “The Twilight Train” has early noir feel, propelled by Lawrence’s “train-like” brush work, and a memorable melody carried by the three leads – Smith, Lindeman, and Saltmarsh. The last Latin piece, “Tio Timoteo” is the closer and it shows the band at their versatile best. The cha-cha has the composer Lindeman, who penned the tune for his brother, on multiple keyboards including Wurlitzer, and Hammond B-3 with Smith plays an array of saxophones and flute, and Saltmarsh, not to be outdone, handles both acoustic and electric guitars. Close listens will reveal echoes of ‘60s and ‘70s rock songs by David Crosby, the Jefferson Airplane, Tim Buckley, and Frank Zappa. (Yes, these guys have been around that long too)
So, the next time someone says, “there is no jazz in Utah” you now have the perfect answer. Besides, this is no average jazz album. It is varied, stocked with strong compositions, and filled with expressive solos.
- Jim Hynes