Like many of his peers, trumpeter/composer Ron Horton is conservatory-trained, with an equitable view of both the classic jazz tradition and the structural innovations of post-war free jazz. Epitomizing the new face of the creative mainstream, Horton is equal parts swinging hard bop stylist, modern classicist and exploratory avant gardist. All these facets appear on Everything In A Dream, Horton's most definitive statement as a leaderhis third overall and second for the Fresh Sound label.
His previous album, 2003's phenomenal Subtextures, set the stage for his recurrent investigation into merging classical forms with jazz structures. Horton gives Samuel Barber's "Saint Ita's Vision" and Claudio Monteverdi's "Lamento d'Arianna" magisterial readings in an improvisational context. He also demonstrates his mastery of the jazz tradition with a swinging cover of Andrew Hill's obscure "Yellow Violet." The AACM-influenced title track and the freewheeling, dynamically episodic "Grovellin'" exemplify his more adventurous side.
As a composer, Horton's lush, chamber-like arrangements are neither pretentious nor pedestrian. His septet reveals proficiency in navigating his capricious stylistic transitions. Ubiquitous drummer Michael Sarin is an eclectic accompanist and a suitable foil for the dual basses of Masa Kamaguchi and John Hebert. Endowing the septet with an expanded rhythmic and melodic foundation, both bassists exercise remarkable restraint, whether playing unison passages together or accompanying one another during solos.
Horton's updated third stream approach is a perfect vehicle for pianist Frank Kimbrough's idiosyncratic, yet graceful impressionism. The unfettered saxophones of Tony Malaby and John O'Gallagher provide the ensemble's most visceral playing. O'Gallagher's spiraling sonic vortex on "Did-it, Did-it, Did-it" is as fervent as Malaby's torrid variations on "Bring It On/Phoenix."
Every member of the septet is given ample solo time, including the leader. Horton reveals a romantic streak on the gorgeous Mediterranean-flavored ballad "Lua Cheia Sobre Lisboa" and soars assuredly on "Lamento d'Arianna." Dedicated to Lester Bowie's performance of the same piece, from the Art Ensemble of Chicago's 1970 classic Les Stances A Sophie, Horton does the master proud. Occasionally revealing a strident side, his opulent tone and classical phrasing sit out a few tunes, including the assertive hard bop punch of "Bring It On/Phoenix." Similarly, he spins a web of splayed, smeary expressionism while weaving parallel lines with Kimbrough's thorny, linear runs on the rambunctious, angular free bop of "Grovellin'."
Looking past the inevitable Dave Douglas comparisons, Everything In A Dream is a solid release from an up-and-coming composer with burgeoning talent who sees well beyond stylistic boundaries.
Personnel: Ron Horton: trumpet and flugelhorn; John O'Gallagher: alto saxophone; Tony Malaby: tenor saxophone; Frank Kimbrough: piano; Mike Sarin: drums; Masa Kamaguchi: bass; John Hebert: bass.