Album: Ches Smith – Interpret It Well

Drummer/vibraphonist Ches Smith’s previous release on the Pyroclastic label could not be more different from this one.

Last year’s Path of Seven Colors was well received: it was the Guardian’s 2021 jazz album of the year. That disc was an exploration of the Haïtian Vodou tradition through the prism of the contemporary New York jazz scene. We heard lots of busy pattering from a trio of tanbou drums, contrasted with the protean energy of saxophone hero Miguel Zenón bursting forth. Lovely stuff.

In Interpret It Well we are in a very different place: these pieces tend to emerge from the borders of silence, but comfortable and comforting they aren’t. Dreamy, but mostly very dark, dangers and threats are lurking here. Try “Morbid” as the best expression of that eeriness. Nothing is ever quite as it seems.

Sacramento-born Ches Smith leaves space in his writing. As the album’s blurb has it: “[his compositions] are minimal but indelible; skeletal enough to allow these remarkable improvisers space to roam far afield yet so vivid that the core image is never lost amidst the daring embellishments.” Every track has an architecture, a flow, a journey, a story.


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