“Mr. Hendrickson-Smith boasts a relaxed, warm melodic bent and an engaging sound; he’s a real swinger, and he’s steeped in the blues…..an old soul who’s got something to say that people ought to hear.”
-Zan Stewart, Jazziz Magazine
“He remains an unquestionable master of the genre; at a mere thirty one years of age, Hendrickson-Smith, who doubles on flute, is the possesor of a world-weary tone that many players his senior would kill for.”
-Peter Aaron, Allaboutjazz
“Hendrickson-Smith’s straight-ahead session captures the essence of a century of great music…an album that brings out the best in straight-ahead jazz for the 21st century.”
“It’s marvelous to hear alto saxophone playing like that.”
Review of “The Soul Of My Alto”-The New York City Jazz Record, March, 2013
Ian Hendrickson-Smith has a different take on the typical saxophone-with-organ session. Many of the greats of the tenor sax of the ‘60s regularly recorded with organists, including Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, Gene Ammons, Stanley Turrentine and Sonny Stitt. Hendrickson-Smith, besides being an alto player, also has a different twist: he omits the frequently present guitarist and sticks with just organ and drums (Adam Scone and Charles Ruggiero, respectively). The saxophonist also conceived a sparser, lush sound while still injecting a bit of soulfulness into this ballad date.
“The End of a Love Affair” is one of those forgotten gems that used to be staples of romantic jazz albums; the trio recaptures its magic with a gorgeous interpretation, as the leader’s big tone is well supported by Scone and Ruggiero’s soft brushwork. Benny Golson’s “Park Avenue Petite”, a beautiful ballad, is one of the composer’s songs from The Jazztet’s debut album. Hendrickson-Smith caresses its melody in a spacious manner, with Scone’s sensitive accompaniment and Ruggiero’s adept percussion complementing his rich sound. The leader’s impassioned playing of “My Silent Love” conveys its message without needing the lyrics, though it’s a safe bet that he, like Ben Webster, probably knew them before he stepped to the microphone. Billy Eckstine’s “I Want to Talk About You” became the cornerstone of the vocalist’s repertoire and was acknowledged by instrumentalists with John Coltrane’s landmark recording. Hendrickson-Smith’s arrangement is no less powerful with the alto saxophonist’s carefully crafted statement and the bluesy Scone solo that follows.
The date wraps with Hendrickson-Smith’s moving original “Butterbean”, a deliberate, conversational ballad with a theme that stands well in comparison to the well-known works that make up the rest of the album. This is the perfect release to cue up for late- night listening with someone special.
by Ken Dryden
ARTICLE FROM THE NEW JERSEY STAR LEDGER, SEPT, 3, 2009
There are two dominant aspects to the musical style of the persuasive, hard swinging saxophonist and composer Ian Hendrickson-Smith.
One comes via soul and funk jazz, a bluesy approach he calls “dirty and greasy.” The other springs from a deep fondness for melody — the kind of lyricism found in standards and in the work of legends like Charlie Parker and Cannonball Adderley. The 35-year-old New Orleans native, who lives in Harlem, doesn’t reserve these distinct elements for certain songs or performances, though. He blends them.
“I try to play funky and lyrical on whatever the tune is,” Hendrickson-Smith says. “I don’t genre hop.”
Hendrickson-Smith, who has played and/or recorded with pianists Spike Wilner and David Hazeltine, soul singer Sharon Jones, and pop singer Amy Winehouse, performs Friday and Saturday at Smalls in Greenwich Village. He’ll also play Wednesdays at Perk’s in Harlem.
At both rooms, the saxophonist — who mainly plays tenor, but dabbles in alto and baritone — leads a quartet with his longtime partner, guitarist Al Street, and two more recent arrivals, organist Brian Charrette and drummer Lawrence Leathers.
“These guys like to try new things all the time, so the music is always fresh,” Hendrickson-Smith says. “Plus, I love organ and guitar. It’s dirty and greasy, and the organ, man, it can be raw, it can be sensitive, soft, loud — it’s an orchestra.”
Hendrickson-Smith utilizes his writing chops — developed while at the Manhattan School of Music, from which he graduated in 1996 — to make his “small band sound big.”
“In my originals and arrangements, I use the guitar more like a second horn, and we play kind of intricate melodies that are worked out,” he says. “I also include background parts and interludes, so our appearances are not just blowing sessions,” he says. “That makes it more interesting for us, and for the audience.”
The saxophonist’s latest album is 2007’s “Blues in the Basement” (Cellar Live), though he plans to record this current quartet soon.
These days, Hendrickson-Smith’s performances spotlight originals, with the occasional cover thrown in. One of his current songs is “Butterbean,” which moves from a “beautiful, simple melody to an open, gospel-like vamp that we blow over.”
Then there’s “No You Don’t,” based on “I Got Rhythm” changes, which “has an intricate guitar-tenor thing that leads to hard swinging,” he says. And there’s “One for Corrine” (named for a bartender at Perk’s), a soul-jazz number that’s “real low-down and funky.”
Among Hendrickson-Smith’s standard selections are “Love for Sale” and “I Wish You Love,” both from his 2004 Sharp Nine album, “Still Smokin’.”
Of his colleagues, the leader says, “Al Street has a beautiful, dirty sound, and we have such a vibe, playing together for 12, 13 years. Brian is a free spirit; he’s always surprising me. And Lawrence has great control of dynamics, from blistering loud to really quiet, and he swings his tail off.”
In addition to his jazz work, Hendrickson-Smith has traveled extensively for the past five years with the seasoned soul belter Sharon Jones, an experience that has proven decidedly beneficial.
“I feel I’m playing the best music I’ve ever played,” he says. “Being on the road, playing classic soul, has strengthened my jazz. I’ve always been a melody player, but now my lines are deeper and more personal.”
Zan Stewart is the Star-Ledger’s jazz writer.
Ian Hendrickson-Smith / Pete Fallico Doodlin’ Lounge interview while on tour in San Fransicsco with Amy Winehouse, 2007.
“Recorded in concert at the Fat Cat, NYC, “BITB” takes the golden era of Blue Note Hard Bop, squeezes it through a puree, and presents the pulpy essence of foot tapping jazz. Combining the grit of the Jazz Messengers and the clever arrangements of Horace Silver’s classic quintet, Hendrickson-Smith takes his trumpet/tenor front line through a set of mostly originals that are catchy, free wheeling and above all, begging the listener to get up and move it!”
“Hendrickson-Smith’s tenor, with a tone and wail recalling Stanley Turrentine, mixes a gospel bluesy gruff with Dave Guy’s bright and robust trumpet on catchy originals like “Big Weeds” and the breathtaking “Jacob’s New Crib”. His solo on the ballad “Hey, Baby” is delicious and fatty. The 60s classic “Hello Stranger” is a perfect vehicle for this riff loving band, with Floody’s drums and Mann’s percussion laying down an infectious groove. But the real hero of this gig is pianist Rick Germanson, who treats the piano as if he were in a Revival meeting, pounding out percussive rhythms that raise the roof. His finger numbing work on “Chatterbox” and ride-cymbal like tapping on “Jacob’s New Crib” recall Bobby Timmons at his peak. This guy could put soul into a Kenny G disc! If you’ve worn out your Blakey and Silver releases, you’re in for an oasis with this band.”
All About Jazz
On Blues in the Basement, Hendrickson-Smith is even more commanding as a leader. He possesses a vivacity that probably comes from having performed with the Queen of Funk Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, led by Bosco Mann, who plays the tambourine and congas on this record.
Jacob’s New Crib features Mann’s steady hand on the tambourine, offset by Hendrickson-Smith’s overconfident (but rightly so!) playing. The tenor saxist goes forward relentlessly, his unshakable energy spreading to the other band members like a virus. On side B of the CD, the sextet dials down the energy and pumps up the sensuality. In Chatterbox, pianist Rick Germanson shows off his chops as he plays a sprawling melody that nearly envelops the song. Meanwhile, trumpeter Dave Guy pours romantic vulnerability into “Hey Baby” and acoustic bassist Neal Miner does the same in the title track.
The album, which was recorded live at NYC’s Fat Cat, embodies the simplicity, the sweatiness, the honesty of soulful funk jazz. Whereas Presenting remains true to the rhythm and blues of the 60s and 70s, Blues in the Basement adds a fresh, youthful energy to the music. In spite of this divergence between new and old, one thing is for sure: this record makes it difficult to resist the urge to dance.
Reviewer: Ivana Ng All About Jazz July 8 2007
Blues in the Basement, from Ian Hendrickson-Smith, is a true rendering of jazz at its finest. This New Orleans native works his tenor saxophone like no other and he discharges such lively chords from the instrument, as well as grueling blows that will make listeners wonder what he was thinking when he composed each track.
The first song will make you want to shake your tush from the very first note. Hendrickson-Smith utilizes his sax proficiency and he is aided by percussion and piano work. The tuneís juice is contagious and you wonít be able to curb the urge to get up and dance, either alone or with the nearest able body.
The second song has Hendrickson-Smith belting out singular notes on his sax, without any other musical accessory. Then, percussion, drums and piano seep in for a dynamic melody. Hendrickson-Smith varies the level of notes he plays, which go from upbeat to lusty. This track has mixed feelings allocated to it and can be applied to many incidents for a diehard jazz fan.
The third song has deep piano chords in the intro followed by glimmering sax play from Hendrickson-Smith, along with piano work. Hendrickson-Smith can suspend high-pitched notes at times, which will definitely get your attention on this track. It’s just the song one would hear, as they sashay into their local jazz club in search of good music and a night of exceptional jazz.
The fourth song could be a song played in a black and white film noir movie about a detective and a mysterious damsel in distress. Hendrickson-Smith plays the tenor sax until the instrument might weep from sheer emotion. The piano gives a minor lightness to the track, but each sad note Hendrickson-Smith puffs will hit you right in the heart, until your eyes are strained with tears and your ears and strained with pain.
Ian Hendrickson-Smithís Blues in the Basement is one any jazz album enthusiast should not be without. It has bubbly tracks as well as ones that will tug at your deepest, most heartfelt passions. It is a perfect soundtrack for a couple who has had their romantic ups and downs and want to set them to a jazzy refrain.
Reviewer: Sari N. Kent Celebrity Cafe Feb 23 2007
ALL ABOUT JAZZ REVIEW OF UP IN SMOKE! and STILL SMOKIN’
Live recordings tend to be from established leaders who are either stretching out previously released studio performances or making a new statement. However, the young altoist, Ian Hendrickson-Smith, has not only chosen to debut as a leader through a live recording but has also continued in this vein for his sophomore offering. A regular at NYC’s club Smoke, Hendrickson-Smith initially weighed in with last year’s Up in Smoke and has just released Still Smokin’ , both hour long sets recorded 16 months apart at the small uptown venue. While Up in Smoke featured a tight quartet boasting David Hazeltine on piano, this year’s model has Hazeltine returning but expands the sound and extends the quartet’s reach with the inclusion of Ryan Kisor on trumpet and versatile guitarist Peter Bernstein featured on selected cuts.
Both sessions clearly capture the intimate atmosphere that is Smoke and are an absorbing documentation of a working band. Up in Smoke presents a varied program that is the perfect vehicle for Hendrickson-Smith to display his full tone on standards such as “The Best Things in Life are Free”, “I’ll Close My Eyes” and Billy Strayhorn’s “Chelsea Bridge”. Although much of Hendrickson-Smith’s playing goes down like a relaxing rich full bodied ruby port, he also effectively plays the blues on the title cut, hits a Latin groove with Hazeltine’s adept assistance on Cal Tjader’s “Curacao” and impresses with rapidity and inventiveness on Charlie Parker’s “Segment”.
Still Smokin’ hits its stride with a delightfully extended arrangement of Cole Porter’s “Love for Sale”. Hendrickson-Smith’s alto is paired with Ryan Kisor’s trumpet as they vary tempos between the bluesy exotic melody and a quick bop interpretation. The rhythm section, which includes Hazeltine, returning drummer Joe Strasser and bassist Peter Washington, keeps things in step with Hazeltine adding his own boppish take on things. The self composed “Sparrow in Flight” serves as a means for piano, alto, trumpet and Bernstein’s guitar to extend their solo wings while “I Can’t Get Started” has Hendrickson-Smith setting up a graceful line on flute that is ably extended by Bernstein as the two trade off. While “Ian’s Bossa” again has Hazeltine steering things in a Latin direction, Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile” and the standard “I Wish You Love” are straight no chaser swingers. It may take a bit of nerve for a young player to introduce himself by way of a live date, but Hendrickson-Smith has shown that he and his band are well worth getting to know.
-Elliot Simon, allabout jazz
ALL ABOUT JAZZ REVIEW OF STILL SMOKIN’
Ian Hendrickson-Smith’s second live recording for Sharp Nine Records is an excellent showcase for his burgeoning talents as a bandleader and soloist. The thirty-one year old alto saxophonist (who doubles on flute on one track) is proficient at programming a set, arranges material in novel ways, gets the most out of an excellent band, and evinces an approach to the instrument that sounds both fresh and tradition-bound. The music is loosely situated on the soulful side of bebop; soloists express themselves without getting self-indulgent; and none of the nine tracks overstays its welcome.
Knowing that the easygoing medium-tempo groove of bassist Peter Washington and drummer Joe Strasser on “I Wish You Love” isn’t something to be messed with, Hendrickson-Smith wisely elects to make it an integral part of his solo. Nothing he plays detracts from the good feeling their pulse generates. His phrasing is speech-like, filled with pregnant pauses, brief telling digressions, all framed by subtle changes in dynamics and emphasis. Sometimes an individual phrase descends into silence; or, he’ll allow an idea to sink in by letting the rhythm section carry things for a few beats. In other instances a phrase poses a question that’s answered by the following one. Rapid-fire bop lines are brief and to the point, always yielding to simpler declarations. The most impressive thing is that Hendrickson-Smith isn’t trying to blow anyone away or distance himself from the listener; rather, it’s clear he wants everyone to enjoy the music.
On the same track pianist David Hazeltine displays a penchant for combining seemingly disparate elements into a coherent whole. His playing is clearly in the lineage of the masters of mainstream jazz piano, and within these parameters he shows a great deal of authority and individuality. Repeatedly during the course of his solo, relaxed, soulful passages that cleave to the bass and drums suddenly morph into energetic, precisely executed 16th note runs of varying lengths. During one particularly memorable sequence, he truncates a tidy phrase by going on a tear over Washington and Strasser for several bars, pauses for a few beats, then drops a few chords at a subdued volume, drawing attention to his partners and bringing the music back to a smoother course.
The rhythm section and Hendrickson-Smith continue to connect for some very effective up-tempo playing during the alto saxophonist’s solo on “Love For Sale.” Everything the piano, bass, and drums do is purposeful and drives the music forward. There’s no waste and no digressions. Washington’s walking pulse is sure and propulsive. Strasser’s ride cymbal matches the bassist on virtually every beat; moreover, the drummer’s accents and short fills provide constant stimulation. Hazeltine’s chording is equally important to the band’s drive. He’s as persistent as possible without becoming obtrusive; and at times his darting chords has an impact not unlike Strasser’s snare drum comping. Though the alto saxophonist’s solo shouldn’t be isolated from what’s going on around him, nonetheless it’s a brilliant piece of work. The language of bebop reigns supreme, and there’s a joyous, bursting-with-life quality that only the finest performances in the genre capture. Furthermore, despite the swiftness of the tempo, Hendrickson-Smith is in complete control, consistently taking ideas from the others on the fly, and never showing any signs of strain.
Hazeltine’s 2-chorus solo on “Love For Sale” is an exceptional, sustained burst of creative energy. There’s both a steely discipline and a near-obsessive quality in the way he keeps riveting single note lines going almost without pause. Raising his intensity level to meet Hazeltine, Washington’s walking becomes even more forceful than before. Aside from steady time and a complement of terse accents, Strasser adds some things that manage to stand out, even as they support the pianist’s magnificent barrage. One example is a simple, melodic sounding figure made with consecutive strokes to both tom-toms. Another is a repetitive, riff-like pattern consisting of two hits to the snare and one bass drum thump.
Not unlike the tunes from the American Popular Songbook that constitute most of the record’s material, Hendrickson-Smith’s original composition in ¾ time, “Sparrow’s Flight,” boasts a striking melody. The piece gradually unfolds, and then builds to a robust climax before a dreamy concluding sequence nearly brings things to a standstill. All four soloists (Hendrickson-Smith, trumpeter Ryan Kisor, guitarist Peter Bernstein, and Hazeltine) find the varied terrain to their liking. Hendrickson-Smith, in particular, hangs concise melodic lines atop the composition’s contours, treading carefully amidst Hazeltine’s jutting chords, and painstakingly working his way up to keening shouts that reek of the blues.
-David Orthmann, allaboutjazz
CD’s We almost missed in 2004: Yet another remote recording, Still Smoking (Sharp Nine 1031) is cut from an all-together different cloth than the Potter disc. Alto saxophonist Ian Hendrickson-Smith is more firmly rooted in the mainstream tradition, but also speaks with an
authority that makes this set from NYC’s Smoke worth more than just a few listens. Appearing regularly at this intimate lower Broadway hot spot, Hendrickson-Smith locks in tight with David Hazeltine, Peter Washington, and Joe Strasser, with guests Ryan Kisor and Peter Bernstein raising the ante on this sophomore effort for Sharp Nine. With superb sound and a loose blowing atmosphere, this hard bop delight confirms that Hendrickson-Smith’s star is on the rise.
-C. Andrew Hovan