Between playing guitar on the road and producing blues artists with Joe Bonamassa, Josh Smith found time to get in the studio for himself. Bird Of Passage is Smith’s dream of composing for, and playing with, a big band. With writing partner bassist Calvin Turner, Smith blends his varied chops with homages to soul-jazz pioneer Grant Green, drummer Art Blakey, and TV cop shows of the 1970s.
Tracking live horns with the killer rhythm section of organist Larry Goldings, drummer Lemar Carter, and bassist Turner, the album takes off with the swingin’ “Doublecross.” Muscular Telecaster lines penetrate with groove, finding middle-ground between Chicago blues and hard bop. “Hopeless Quarters” and “Rare Plus” bring back memories of vintage police dramas as the horn section blasts epic accents while Smith makes tasteful use of effects. He swings hard, employing a buffet of blues, R&B, and jazz motifs, which translates to soulfully satisfying.
On the film-noirish slow blues of “Brand New,” Smith wails and belts on the only vocal track; he croons in the best way, delivering an honest vocal performance while he and Goldings deliver sweet comping and killer solos.
Bird Of Passage is a swingin’ record with first-rate writing and playing throughout.
This article originally appeared in VG’s August 2022 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.