Nate Smith is a 2x GRAMMY® Award-nominated drummer, composer and producer. Last night, he played at World Cafe Live as part of a limited East Coast run of tour dates in support of his latest album, Kinfolk 2: See The Birds. I had the chance to attend and photograph the event, and while I’m not all that familiar with jazz, I was excited.
To give you some more background on Nate – he is one of the foremost artists of the current progressive jazz movement, and will be spending much of the year on the road, both as drummer and music director for Brittany Howard as well as with his own incredible combo.
The highly anticipated follow-up to 2017’s GRAMMY® Award-nominated Kinfolk: Postcards From Everywhere, Kinfolk 2: See the Birds affirms Nate Smith as one of the most dynamic drummers, insightful composers, and engaging bandleaders of his generation, adept across infinite genres and multiple styles. The album sees Smith joined by an array of diverse fellow artists, including legendary guitarist Vernon Reid, violinist Regina Carter, vibraphonist Joel Ross, rapper Kokayi, and singers Brittany Howard, Amma Whatt, Michael Mayo and Stokley Williams.
The show’s opener was jazz pianist Orrin Evans, who masterfully played. Voices from overhead accompanied him as he played, saying phrases such as “Love can make you happy and very lonely. It can make you understand what it is without it.”
When Nate took to the stage, to say that the crowd was eager is an understatement. I quickly learned that he is beloved by his fans.
As I mentioned before, I am not extremely familiar with jazz, but I can certainly appreciate it. When I began working in classical music and started to attend operas, I similarly struggled to grasp and fully understand the art form. I felt the same way about jazz – trying to learn when is the right moment to clap, interpreting what is being said through the snares and the saxophone. I think that’s what makes jazz great art – to my ear, it is a challenge and it is intricate.
Once I let go of trying to immediately become an expert in it is the second I began to enjoy the music. I let my toes tap, my hips sway. I admired the unspoken communication between the musicians as they switched up melodies. I marveled at Nate’s ability on the drums and the joy he brought to the stage. My brain could not comprehend just how talented these musicians are.
And all this to say, even if you don’t fully understand the music, there’s nothing better than watching an artist do what they do best and an audience who loves them in return.