JOE SMITH & THE SPICY PICKLES
Trumpeter Joe Smith formed the Spicy Pickles in Denver, Colorado in 2013 as a sextet that played swing and New Orleans jazz for dancers. The group has evolved a bit since then. On their latest recording Gin & Moonlight, they are a four-horn, four-rhythm octet consisting of Smith, trombonist Decker Babcock, Andrew Vogt, and James Isaac both doubling on tenor and baritone (with Vogt also playing clarinet), guitarist Greg Ruby, bassist Gary Sloan, drummer Braxton Kahn, and special guest Jeff Barnhart on piano. In addition, there are several vocals from the excellent Jessy Carolina (who normally sings with her own group in New York and sometimes recalls Helen Humes) and one apiece by Cara Griffith and the leader.
Throughout Gin & Moonlight, the Spicy Pickles are very much a swing band, one that often sounds a lot larger than its eight pieces. There are inventive revivals of “St. Louis Blues,” “Moonglow” (including the rarely heard verse), “They Raided The Joint,” a heated “I Would Do Anything For You,” “Blue And Sentimental” (which looks towards the Count Basie version), “Lullaby Of The Leaves,” and “I’ll Be Seeing You.” In addition, there are five originals with Joe Smith’s “Pourin’ My Heart Out” being particularly memorable and “A Moonless Night” purposely hinting at Artie Shaw’s “Nightmare.” All of the new material is very much in the swing tradition including “Mirage” by Dan Barrett who also arranged three numbers and co-produced the CD with Smith.
The solos are concise and colorful, the ensembles are tight, and the rhythm is steady and danceable. Gin &Moonlight is a delightful album recommended to listeners and dancers alike.
Gin & Moonlight (Cuttin’ Records CR001 12 selections, TT = 45:49) www.joesmithandthespicypickles.com