Different Smile – Reviews
‘Take a brace of Brazilian classics, add a quirky setting of poet Wendy Cope’s ”By The Round Pond”, three impressive originals, a little-known but rather beautiful Nina Simone tune (”If You Knew”), and searching interpretations of three evergreens (”Here Lies Love”, ”How Can I Be Sure?” and and otherworldly ”Hi Lili Hi Lo”) and the result, for your delectation is Kaz Simmons” impressive second album ”Different Smile”. Anyone who got to hear the singer’s debut ”Take Me Home” will already know what a fine arranger she is, and the follow-up will undoubtedly bolster her burgeoning reputation. From the folksy lyricism of the 5/4 opener ”Mantra” to the Nick Drake-like wistfulness of ”S.A.D Song”, one of the most attractive features of her songwriting is its refusal to be corralled into well-worn, stereotypical forms, the latter tune in particular taking an unusual, circuitous route to its final destination. Tom Jobim and Dolores Duran”s gorgeous ”Estrada do Sol” is given a spectacularly successful, lovingly idiomatic reading. Driven along by Ife Tolentino”s crisply articulated percussion and a sultry sax break from Sam Crockatt, the sextet makes as celebratory and sun-kissed a sound as you could wish for – Peter Quinn, Jazzwise
Goldsmiths graduate Kaz is a jazz-based singer/guitarist/writer who has issued a 10 track album of thoughtful, reflective songs. The atmospheric guitar, bass and percussion of ”Mantra” pulls you into a world of sensual contemplation and seductive dynamics. Particularly sweet are the occasional touches of vocal harmony which blend with the South American stylings on display throughout. The piano of Ivo Neame and the tenor sax of Sam Crockatt hit home during Carlos-Jobim and Dolores Duran’s ”Estrada Do Sol”. Kaz is clearly able to call on a wide palette of musical colours and with her undoubted skill, a shining future for her is assured – Keith Ames, Musician Magazine
Very much a personal effort, Kaz Simmons wrote three tracks, arranged or co-arranged all the remaining seven, produced the album and sings and plays guitar on it – Different Smile taps into the current vogue for confessionally intimate, jazz/folk-tinged music, but also contains an affecting visit to Nina Simone’s ”If You Knew” (inspired by Jeff Buckley’s version) and two Brazilian pieces, utilising her ability to sing in Portuguese and capitalising on the presence of percussionist Ife Tolentino in her band. There”s also an arrangement of a poem by Wendy Cope, plus three more familiar non-originals, but to all her material Simmons brings a graceful charm and insinuating ease that make the album simply melt in the ear, particularly since the band tenorman Sam Crockatt, keyboardist Ivo neame, bassist Simon Thorpe and drummer Dave Smith alongside Simmons and Tolentino manage to imbue the whole venture with appropriately subtle power. A worthy successor to her 33 Records debut, Take Me Home – Chris Parker, www.vortexjazz.co.uk
Sounding a tad like Lily Allen doing jazz, but with oodles more class, Kaz Simmons is the sophisticated modern songstress you must seek out this year‘Take a brace of Brazilian classics, add a quirky setting of poet Wendy Cope’s ”By The Round
Years living in jazz-loving Greenwich have nurtured a flair for traditional-sounding blues and soothing soul in the Goldsmiths-trained musician, who updates the sound with quirky lyrics and arrangements
It is unsurprising walks through Greenwich Park inspired some of the music here. Like its muse, the songs on Kaz”s second record, Different Smile, are bright, romantic and beautiful.
Her relaxed yet graceful voice – sounds almost as if she is chatting but perfectly in tune – is complemented sweetly and simply by an accomplished band. This and a few Zero 7-esque melodies result in a very easy on the ear, blissful brand of jazz.
With massive potential for popularity, jazz could well have found the crossover artist it”s been waiting for; achieving what Rufus Wainwright – a clear Kaz influence – did for classical.
Tributes are paid on this record to thoughtful artists, such as Wainwright, who wanted their music to resonate on a deeper level. There”s a cover of Nina Simone”s If You Knew (in turn, inspired by a Jeff Buckely recording) and Wendy Cope”s poem By the Round Pond is put to music.
Mentor and friend Ife Tolentino also leaves a mark. Brazilian standards O Circo Mistico and the irresistable beats of Estrada do Sol offer some upbeats moment of sensual soul alongside the more twinkly tracks such as Big Smile
Hurry along and allow yourself to melt into the loveliness of this promising talent – Kerry Eustice, Greenwich and Lewisham News Shopper
Different Smile is a glorious buffet for the ear.
Kaz Simmons hypnotic voice is deliciously infectious. Her arrangements eagerly explore form and meter. This work comes hot out of the creative, sonic bakery. Listen to the unique sounds of her writing, use of spaces, and lyrical storytelling. Refreshingly uncommon and delightfully captivating.
Demonstrating growing artistry, all songs are either written or arranged by Ms. Simmons and are woven to incorporate her talented music mates. Fearless to the prospect of outside criticism, Different Smile cuts a new path departing from her 2005 debut release Take Me Home. Exit the Jazz Standards. Enter waves of fresh writing, arranging and expression.
Mantra;an original composition, kicks off the recording with a 5/4 meter floating over light and subtle cymbal patterns by Dave Smith on Drums. The lyrics seem to plead for an affirmation in the midst of an emotional storm, that all will work in the end. Strength can come out of periods of turmoil.
A beautiful interpretation of a Carlos Antonio Jobim’s composition follows. Start off with a storm brewing on the coast of the sea. The clouds quickly burn away and the journey on the Estrada Do Sol (Road to the Sun) begins. As the arrangement develops it is clear this road has many paths, masterfully explored through improvisation by Ivo Neame (piano) and Sam Crockatt (tenor sax)
Whenever a singer grabs a song done by Nina Simone, inherent danger lurks. The unique sound and emotional power of Ms Simone music left an indelible mark on any song she touched. Trying to replicate requires a delicate balance of respect to the history and of an eye to the modern. The interpretation of If You Knew is well arranged and performed. A well calculated risk.
How Can I Be Sure? supports an overriding project theme which contains songs of uncertainty and speculation in the storyline. Once this tune is turned over to the supporting ensemble, Ms. Simmons can rest assured she is in good hands. Deft Fender Rhodes work by Ivo Neame, brief but tasteful note dustings by Sam Crockatt’s saxophone, earthy and dark percussive expression by Dave Smith’s locks down the all the certainty this writer needs to be sure that this recording is worth a serious listen.
There is much more for the listener to explore so check it out. Different Smile delivers an intriguing second chapter to Ms. Simmons” accelerating musical journey - Bruce Pulver, www.jazzreview.com
A beautiful record, beautifully performed and recorded – Mark Lockheart