Victor Rice “Smoke” album review

Renowned producer and musical engineer, Victor Rice, has squeezed another solo full-length LP in between his other projects – projects that include production work for The Slackers, Easy Star All Stars, The Toasters and more. Over 20 years Rice has been in the business of making music (and making music well), migrating from his New York homestead to the tropical paradise of Brazil in 2002. This move fused his ska background with samba sounds, earning Rice two Latin GRAMMYs in 2015 and 2016 for his mixing talents. Now full of rocksteady vibes and Brazilian flair, Rice is ready to premiere his own music for the first time since his 2003 sophomore album, In America. It’s been a while, but Rice can still bring the heat… or should we say, Smoke.

Although entirely instrumental, stories still rise to the surface as Rice paints a picture with timbre and tonality.

The 10-track instrumental Smoke album showcases Rice’s versatility, not only as a bassist, but a lover of music at large. Every track is upbeat, yet tinged with a certain dark je ne sais quoi to imply that happiness happens in between the realities of day-to-day hardship. You can have fun in life, no matter what cards you hold or have discarded along the way. Along this casino analogy, the album brings to the samba-influenced surface a soundtrack to smoke a cigar too, to play cards to, to dance to, to clean house to, to entertain dinner guests to; whatever’s on the agenda, go ahead and Smoke it out. The horn-heavy LP mixes not only trombone with trumpet with sax, but proffers layers of alto, tenor and even soprano horn harmonies! The rocksteady beats have a constant kettle drum breakdown, and the playful solos of each instrument keeps the listener entertained from start to finish. Although entirely instrumental, stories still rise to the surface as Rice paints a picture with timbre and tonality. Take “Mr. Brooks” for instance: the forceful, stern horns come across impassioned, mysterious, undulated. Who is this Brooks man? A suave nightlife aficionado, searching for truth in all the wrong places? A con man, waiting for his next stolen paycheck? An ordinary man at odds with himself, internalizing his routine agony with another bottle at the bar? A man of mystery, “Mr. Brooks” lives eternally in speculation and between brass solos. And, that trumpet – there’s no denying the talent. Even on softer songs, like “Fumaca”, the trumpet tells a terrific tale of love, life, lust and loss.

Smoke is now available on all digital outlets via Easy Star Records, just in time to end the year right! Entertain your holiday guests with a breezy, Brazilian soundtrack or start the New Year off right with rocksteady vibes! For more information, visit

Purchase or stream Smoke:

Track listing:

  1. Lou
  2. Tema
  3. Turn
  4. Bermuda Triangle
  5. Motion Study I
  6. Mr. Brooks
  7. Fumaca
  8. Party Line
  9. The Dream
  10. Motion Study II

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Disclaimer: All views presented in this album review are those of the reviewer and not necessarily those of Top Shelf Music.

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