Malcolm Earle Smith: Vocal Intent review – a singing trombonist? You bet… | Jazz


Singing instrumentalists, the ones who have to stop blowing in order to sing, have mostly been trumpeters. Louis Armstrong and Chet Baker come to mind, and Dizzy would oblige when the mood took him. Those with other instruments are much rarer. Malcolm Earle Smith is a noted British trombonist and this, his first vocal album, is no sudden whim but a long-contemplated labour of love.

He recruited four of the sharpest young jazz musicians around today, former students at the music college where he teaches, as his accompanying band. He also wrote the arrangements, which are full of clever surprises and quite tricky at times. Perhaps most surprising of all is his singing style, involving both lyrics and wordless scat, which he carries off with aplomb. Altogether, there’s never a dull moment.

These nine numbers originate from between the 1920s and 1950s, sometimes dismissed nowadays as “boring standards”. But it’s not the songs’ fault, it’s people who perform them boringly. No fear of that here, with pianist Chris Eldred, Conor Chaplin (bass), Douglas Marriner (drums), unbelievably agile saxophonist Leo Richardson and the new King of Scat, Malcolm Earle Smith.

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