August sees the dynamite debut album from newcomer Jasmine Lovell-Smith’s Towering Poppies.

The young saxophonist launched the album at the Sidewalk Cafe in New York last month.

Lovell-Smith, her Twitter profile winkingly says she’s a “composer, soprano saxophonist, part-time publicist, vegetarian chef, and voracious reader”, is a US/New Zealander living for now in New York, but about to head off to begin studying for a masters in composition at Wesleyan University, where the great Anthony Braxton teaches.

Before beginning her studies Lovell-Smith has been working with another band called Common Wealth which she co-leads with saxophonist/composer Angela Morris.

Whether she will be able to juggle the demands of academia with the very different discipline of developing her band, playing with Common Wealth, and composing, remains to be seen in terms of direction, but the signs seem promising as the album Fortune Songs is quite a statement of intent.

Lovell-Smith studied at Massey University in Wellington, New Zealand, and graduated six years ago with a first class honours degree, majoring in jazz saxophone performance and composition.

Then in 2008 she took part in the high flying Banff international workshop in jazz and creative music in Canada, and two years ago moved to New York where Towering Poppies was formed, and is based.

The band, a chamber jazz collective with a melodic slightly astringent song-based direction at times with a Caribbean lilt, features Lovell-Smith with pianist Cat Toren, trumpeter Russell Moore, bassist Patrick Reid and drummer Kate Pittman.

The band has been going for a good couple of years and the music, she says on her website, is “informed by folk, impressionism and free improvisation.”

At times as a player with an agreeably winning tone Lovell-Smith resembles the significant but vastly underrated Jane Ira Bloom. A new compositional voice on the saxophone for sure going by early listens of Fortune Songs, watch out for this new name when the album hits.

Stephen Graham 

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Jasmine Lovell-Smith’s Towering Poppies, pictured above