'Yellow Red Blue' are the Colors Chosen by Jasmine Lovell-Smith's Towering Poppies, Paintbox Records [REVIEW]

By Mike Greenblatt on Nov 22, 2016 02:11 PM EST

Yellow Red Blue (Paintbox Records) by Jasmine Lovell-Smith's Towering Poppies starts jazz for 12 scintillating minutes or so until the title tune goes way colorful with the introduction of a violin/violin/cello/viola string quartet. Its sumptuousness is surprising, as is the inclusion on this otherwise all-original Jasmine project of Joni Mitchell's "I Had A King."

Before she incorporates her alt.classical colors, though, her melding of Japanese folk strains with mid-tempo swing, using her heady bass clarinet/piano/bass/drums Towering Poppies to interact with her soprano sax, is refreshing, soothing and totally, uh, alternative.

Jasmine is a fascinating jazzer. Her 2012 Fortune Song debut presaged the arrival of a strong new voice from New Zealand who could compose originals that sound like tried'n'true classics you'd swear you'd heard before. Scuttling between Connecticut and Mexico before settling in New York City, she honed her craft on the fly, learning complex orchestrations, studying at the Banff International Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music as well as Ralph Alessi's School of Improvised Music. She plans to move back home, though, to receive her Doctorate in Composition at the New Zealand School of Music.

Her synthesis of jazz and classical music is delightful, her arrangements and production superb. "Familia" uses traditional Mexican music, jazz and classical. To that end, the addition of the esteemed Mexican string quartet, Cuarteto la Matraca, adds immeasurably just the right sonorous tones. (She's married to classical composer Christopher Ramos Flores.)

"Swan Song," originally written as a chamber piece for violin/bassoon/clarinet/piano, is totally jazzed up with solos that dart hither and yon in a kaleidoscopic flourish. "Moving Mountains" has the string quartet sawing away in an avant-accessible pastiche of varying hues. It all ends with the simplistic, elegant "Song For May," written when she was still a college girl going for her Masters at Wesleyan.

Beauty comes in many formats. Jasmine Lovell-Smith is many ways.

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TagsJasmine Lovell-Smith's Towering Poppies, REVIEW, Paintbox Records, Joni Mitchell

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