Giving Praise Through Jazz: Bassist Sean O'Bryan Smith’s “Reflection” Is A Diverse Inspirational Offering
Nashville, TN: A first-call sideman who has played with an array of headliners steps out on faith as a frontman on “Reflection,” the second solo set by bassist Sean O’Bryan Smith that was released today on Groove Therapy Records. The 12-song mix of church evergreens and gospel hits along with a few well-crafted originals spotlights fine musicianship from legends and hit-makers that present the material produced and arranged by Smith as contemporary jazz instrumentals, funky R&B grooves and enlightened pop tunes. Guest Chuck Loeb’s spirited guitar and roof-raising organ blasts spark “Blessed Be Your Name,” the first single that is amongst the most added tracks and garnering the most increased spins at radio.
“Reflection” provides a complete picture of the musical missionary - past, present and a glimpse into the future. Originally conceived three years ago as an EP, “Reflection” evolved into a full-length record the more Smith listened to hymns and worship tunes. Rooted in soul music and tracked using vintage recording nuances from the STAX era, twenty-three acolytes were quick to join the processional recorded in Smith’s Nashville studio including Loeb, Randy Brecker, Gerald Albright, Frank Catalano, Jack Pearson (The Allman Brothers), Jeff Franzel (Taylor Swift, *NSYNC, Clay Aiken), vocalist Lisa Hearns and actor-musician-spoken word artist Malcolm Jamal-Warner.
Critical Jazz called “Reflection” “…a wonderfully moving hybrid of soul, jazz, and gospel from standards to inspired originals…A truly unique and inspirational hybrid finding a well-deserved happy place somewhere between gospel and contemporary jazz.” SmoothJazz.com wrote “It’s different, it’s refreshing, and yes, it is indeed filled with power and inspiration you won’t soon forget. Sean O’Bryan Smith’s ‘Reflection’ is not to be missed!”
Opening the album in a celebratory mood, Smith’s rambunctious bass plucks the lead melody shadowed by a stirring organ on a power funk rendition of “How Great Thou Art.” In Smith’s hands, “Blessed Assurance” becomes a soul tune that would be at home on adult contemporary radio. The laid back groove cuddles a warm bass melody, Franzel’s eloquent piano musings and comforting sax licks. Smith approached his bass-work on the somber, contemplative “Mighty To Save” as an orchestral piece. His bass melody is echoed by electric guitar amidst expressive piano and organ noodling. Franzel’s original, “Me Without You,” is an aching torch song featuring Hearns accompanied by piano and six-string bass. An original authored by Smith, “Called” gives voice to Albright’s reassuring sax on the invigorating contemporary jazz affirmation. “Will The Circle Be Unbroken” is converted into a shuffling Dixieland march that detonates midpoint into a straight-ahead jazz jam illuminated by Catalano’s swinging sax as Pearson’s slide guitar glorifies Smith’s bass oration. Brecker’s prayerful trumpet provides a personal declaration on the melodically meditative “Give Me Jesus.” The bass prophet presides at the pulpit to deliver a rousing sermon as a celestial choir bears witness on the gospel classic “The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power.” A vocal number highlighting keyboardist-crooner Gary A. Brown, Smith’s five-string bass is particularly gregarious, firing fast and furious flourishes on the love song of faith, loyalty and devotion. A marching band drum line rips the revelry in a celebration of spirit on “Battle Hymn of the Republic” as lavish horns fire up the praise on the mélange that dishes tastes of New Orleans and South Africa. Smith composed the music for the title track, a powerful and contemplative bass, B3 organ and spoken word piece that closes the collection. His probing bass invites a soul-searching journey, an honest introspective rumination on self-love and surrendering to faith.
On Saturday (July 21), Smith will perform at an album release gig at the Snow Basin Ski Resort in Snow Basin, Utah that will be filmed for a concert DVD.
A self-taught musician from Chattanooga, Tennessee who presently resides in Nashville, Smith has recorded with Keith Urban, Lady Antebellum, Anna Wilson, Darius Rucker, The Oak Ridge Boys, Larry Carlton and Rick Braun. Touring with Billy Ray Cyrus’ during the country-pop star’s peak generated live work with Rascal Flatts, Kenny Rogers, Wynonna, Esperanza Spaulding, Victor Wooten, Brian Bromberg, amongst many others, further propelling the bassist into becoming a premiere sideman. His eclectic 2008 solo debut, “Tapestry,” features 32 musicians and underscores his astute and agile bass techniques. Grounded and centered, Smith strives to make music with meaning at the highest level.