Two-and-a-half years on from Smiling Organizm’s self-titled debut the line-up rejigged, Ambrose Akinmusire replacing Vitaly Golovnev, Taylor Eigsti in for Liam Noble, although the Pigfoot fella is touring with another version of the band on the upcoming tour, the rest unchanged retaining the low-note configuration of bass guitarist Tim Lefebvre and double bassist Larry Grenadier, with Charles Lloyd drummer Eric Harland still at the kit.
Better than the debut album in a few respects, certainly in the maturity of the writing, there is a lot of individuality in the customised bop approach, Akinmusire’s apocalyptic style, that doleful anthemic sense he brings to the music, perhaps making most difference.
Strigalev has written all the tunes and of these opener ‘KUKU’ has almost an Afrobeat accent to it, ‘Horizontal Appreciation’ a sinuous bass guitar-led injection of pace that could go into jazz-rock but doesn’t, while ‘Sharp Night’ has a frenetic leaping momentum Strigalev a latterday Charlie Parker.
‘Pinch’ might get stuck a little bit notwithstanding the churningly hypnotic bass lines. But trumping everything on ‘Unlimited Source of Pleasure’ Akinmusire and Strigalev cook up a catchy opening that allows the band the scope it needs, Strigalev delivering eventually one of his most convincingly nuanced solos, really tonally distinctive above all, and controlled.
On ‘Stake’ Strigalev and Akinmusire take turns to outdo each other, adding a jousting excitement to a dramatic number while the title track ‘Robin Goodie’ has a cheeky mock heroic quality to it that draws you in.
‘Lorton’ with its aching melodic luxuriousness then gives way to Brad Mehldau bassist Grenadier laying down a monstrous groove at the beginning of ‘Personal Opinion’ Eigsti chipping in playfully.
Piano doesn’t always contribute such an obvious role on the album overall as the bass lines or horns, there’s such a crowd of sound sometimes, and it’s left to Grenadier to lead off the paradoxically-slow ‘Urgent Ballad’ before Strigalev summons vast reserves of energy for the frantic ‘Renduta.’ An album that has its rollercoaster qualities but surprising amounts of tenderness stitched in there too, Strigalev on a roll.
Released on 2 February
Smiling Organizm play Ronnie Scott’s, London on 18 February as part of a European tour