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Jesse J. Smith: Versatile Styles of Instrumental Music

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Seattle-based independent musician Jesse J. Smith displays a distinct flexibility in the way he moves among musical genres. His releases explore different modes of expression, each handled with a superb and entertaining aptitude.

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JESSE J. SMITH: Royal Nights (CD on Grand World Music)

This release from 2007 offers 60 minutes of spry pop music.

Versatile keyboards are joined by guitars, bass and percussion to create bouncy tuneage.

The keyboards are agile and pursue the melodies with a sparkling enthusiasm. There is minimal use of textural backgrounds; here, keyboard riffs are layered to generate congenial songs with a sprightly temperament. Their demeanor is often toy-like, not in sound but in expression, communicating moods of jovial definition.

Rhythms are employed throughout, but often in a subtle manner, providing propulsion that is secondary to the songs' main gist.

Guitars and bass periodically contribute additional riffs, flavoring the keyboards with auxiliary substance.

These compositions convey a celebratory mood that combines rock and pop sensibilities, producing tunes of an engaging bouncy nature.

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JESSE J. SMITH: Madrona (CD on Grand World Music)

This release from 2007 features 66 minutes of classical keyboard music.

With this release, Smith turns his talents toward producing a more classical motif, delivering pensive tuneage with a charming edge.

The keyboards are introspective and brooding, describing melodies that inject a sense of optimism to what initially seems to be ponderous chamber music. The tunes possess an uplifting quality, frequently transforming bass-end riffs into expressions of celestial beauty.

Basic themes are established, then seasoned with auxiliary threads that excellently compliment those central melodies. Piano tones are utilized to lend some pieces a cerebral flavor, but the general sonic temperament tends to rely on electronic keys to convey the music's serious intentions.

Instead of relying on atmospheric texturals, Smith allows fundamental keyboard layers to accomplish that function.

Electric bass is added to several tracks, extending the profundity of those pieces.

These compositions exhibit an emotional density in contrast to their evident instrumental sparsity. Here, carefully arranged simplicity results in a remarkable depth of emotional impact.

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JESSE J. SMITH: Organic Rock (CD on Grand World Music)

This release from 2009 offers 63 minutes of lively rock music.

With this release, Smith shifts to rock music that utilizes guitars as the front instrument supported by keyboards, bass and percussion.

The guitars squeal and belt out riffs of lively disposition with a certain passion that never gets out of hand. Nimble fingers coax agile riffs from the strings, harnessing the outcome into complex structures that stimulate a get-up-and-dance response in the listener.

Urgent percussion provides ample locomotion, but the beats generally display a suitable restraint, remaining immersed in the mix and letting the rest of the instruments flourish with their delivery. The occasions in which the beats penetrate the flow shine with appropriate enthusiasm.

While keyboards are present, their contributions are often buried by the way the emphatic guitar and spry rhythms mesh to form a throbbing front.

Thumping basslines rumble away within the mix, establishing a sturdy bottom.

These compositions explore an instrumental fervor that fairly sparkles with zest and intricate dexterity. A sense of power is blended with a dedication to uplifting sentiments, marking these tunes with a delightful appeal.

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