Poetic: Michael Kanan, Joel Press, Sean Smith, Joe Hunt (Smalls 03/13/11)

There are many first-rate jazz players and many inspiring ones — but only a few reach deeply into the poetry at the heart of the music.

Last Friday, May 12, 2011, I saw four of these jazz poets at work at Smalls: Michael Kanan, piano; Joel Press, tenor and soprano sax; Sean Smith, bass; Joe Hunt, drums. Their two sets reached heights that even the best music doesn’t always attain.

I could attempt to describe what I heard in words: Joel’s soulful, conversational approach to melody and his rhythmic energies; Michael’s thoughtful, surprising lines and deep harmonies; Sean’s pulse and empathy; Joe’s array of sweetly musical sounds that embrace the group and push it along. The animation this quartet brought to well-known material. But I’d rather let these shining performances speak for themselves. Pure poetry — deep art that doesn’t call attention to itself but lingers in the mind and the heart. And there’s more to come.