Darren Barrett, winner of the prestigious Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition in 1997, is emerging as a leader in the New Bop movement, a jazz form that combines elements of hard bop (there is lots of that here), fusion and modal music. His second album has a musical agenda of mostly original compositions mixed with two standards.
Barrett is a monster trumpet player. But here he is hindered, and sometimes defeated, by most of the material he has chosen to play. Unless one listens very closely, there is very little difference from one track to another and even then the effort bears scant rewards. The hardest of boppers like Jackie McLean and Wayne Shorter had a musical road map one could follow and move with. Here such tunes as "Middle East" and "C Minor Joint" come across as aimless rambling. John Lamkin's drums settle into monotonous rhythmic patterns while Barrett and Jimmy Greene's tenor show enormous virtuosity, but seemingly just for the purpose of showing enormous virtuosity. It's like they're doing their practice scales.
Matters shift considerably on the two standards which provide a structure for creative improvision. Barrett's trumpet is mellow on "I'm Glad There Is You" as he and Greene engage in creative soliloquy. Aaron Goldberg no longer is pounding the piano but, along with Reuben Rogers' bass, provides the basis for the two protagonists bring their ideas to fruitful conclusion. Of the originals, "Her Gentle Way" is the closest the group comes to again establishing a similar atmosphere. There is outstanding sax playing on this cut by Greene.
Hopefully, before the next album, greater thought will be given to the content of the play list so that it provides greater diversity allowing one to sort out one cut from another.
Personnel: Darren Barrett - Trumpet; Jimmy Greene - Tenor Saxophone; Aaron Goldberg - Piano; Reuben Rogers - Bass; John Lamkin - Drums