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Songwriter Spotlight

Richard Smith

On their groove-heavy self-titled debut on Artistry Music, Smith and his dream team deliver a quintessentially L.A. sound – contemporary jazz with pop accessibility and a funky R&B edge – on infectious Smith originals like “Ultimate X,” “Back in the Day” and the hard-grooving title track along with faithful covers of Stevie Wonder’s “Boogie On Reggae Woman,” Brian McKnight’s romantic “What We Do Here” and Dan Siegel’s bubbling romp “Alvinator.” For a change of pace, Smith offers some gentle nylon string acoustic guitar work on the soothing “Gift,” which features alluring wordless vocals and a stellar piano solo by Patrice Rushen, and also on “Agrigento,” a tender ballad which he says “captures a little bit of Sicily but with an L.A. Beat.”

Smith rightfully credits Tom Scott & The L.A. Express for setting the template for what the versatile players are going for on The L.A. CHILLHARMONIC. “To me, that group defined the L.A. sound and acted as a beacon for many of us ‘style-straddlers. The close sax and guitar lines, the innovative beats, the harmony, the recording quality and blowing was all the best.” He also cites The Crusaders, Joe Sample, Stevie Wonder, Earth, Wind & Fire, Lee Ritenour and Tower of Power as being potent influences on him as a developing player. “What these great artists did and continue to do is sophisticated but at the same time very accessible. They understand the confluence of jazz, pop and R&B. They make music that generally isn’t trying to impress or out- smart or be clever for clever’s sake. And that’s the direction I’ve chosen in my career.”

An accomplished player with a list of wide ranging influences, from jazz guitar legends Wes Montgomery, George Benson and Pat Martino to his mentor Joe Diorio and contemporary jazz pioneers Lee Ritenour, Larry Carlton and Robben Ford, Smith is a seasoned veteran with a wealth of sideman credits over the past 20 years as well as nine releases as a leader. On The L.A. CHILLHARMONIC, he alternately summons up Wes-styled octaves (“L.A. Chillharmonic”), Bensonesque melodicism and fluency (“Checkin’ You Out,” “Ultimate X,” “Alvinator”), bluesy string bending (“Boogie On Reggae Woman,” “Back In The Day”) and soothing nylon string playing (“Gift,” “Agrigento”). Alto saxophonist Marienthal, a charter member of Chick Corea’s Elektric Band, blows with funky authority on “Checkin’ You Out,” “Alvinator” and the old school groover “Back In The Day.” Greg Adams contributes some haunting muted trumpet alongside Tollak Olstead’s Stevie-esque harmonica work on “Boogie On Reggae Woman.” And drummer extraordinaire Colaiuta keeps it strictly in the pocket throughout this grooving L.A. manifesto.