Over the past dozen years trumpeter Joe Magnarelli has gradually transformed a bebop-derived vocabulary into a highly personal style. Utilizing a full-bodied tone that never turns strident, Magnarelli invites the listener to focus on the substantive dimensions of his playing, rather than drawing attention to technique, velocity and influences. Beautifully crafted melodies spring from his horn in varying shapes and sizes. Sometimes he'll sustain a chain of thought for several measures; in other instances he'll parcel out a complete idea in a few segments; or just a handful of carefully placed notes will do the trick.
Hoop Dreams, Magnarelli's fourth date as a leader for Criss Cross (he's also co-led two sessions with trumpeter John Swana), is an excellently executed, emotionally engaging recording. He makes the most of a band of like-minded peers by placing them in quintet, quartet, trio and duo configurations. While the lucid, melodically fertile improvisations of Magnarelli, pianist Gary Versace and guitarist Peter Bernstein are a constant, unifying factor, the varying formats offer an impression of continuous change.
A snail's pace magnifies every detail of Magnarelli and Bernstein's rendition of "Ask Me Now. Assisted by the guitarist's incisive comping, Magnarelli integrates subtle variations of Thelonious Monk's melody and brief soaring lines. Left to his own devices for sixteen bars, Bernstein's chords and single note passages include an assortment of textures as he gradually returns to the theme.
A muted trumpet/bass/drums trio executes a rousing medium to up-tempo version of Monk's "I Mean You. While Magnarelli and bassist Paul Gill play the "A section in unison, Tony Reedus' jittery hi-hat cymbal strokes and snappy snare drum comments at once articulate a pulse and cleave to the melody. As Magnarelli continues on the tune's bridge, Gill starts walking and Reedus locks into his splendid groove with a dry, eloquent sounding ride cymbal.
Magnarelli's four compositions, particularly "Genet and "Division Street, are a good match for the better-known material. "Genet is a buoyant, 35-bar theme taken at a medium tempo. Throughout Magnarelli's three choruses, the melodies keep coming at a relaxed pace, and even though he doesn't make any dynamic gestures, the accumulative effect is stunning. "Division Street is a gentle bossa nova with an exquisite melody played by the leader's flugelhorn. Never straying too far from Gill and Reedus' easy, unruffled movement, Versace's solo displays a knack for developing an idea until it ripens, and then making a smooth transition to the next one. He introduces soul, gospel, and Latin figures in ways that aren't obvious or heavy-handed.
The arrangement of the title track, another Magnarelli original, employs Bernstein like a second horn in unison with the leader's trumpet over a Latin-oriented groove in 6/8. Magnarelli's solo is an amalgam of brusque high register sallies, pointed bebop lines and wistful repetitive phrases. Versace begins and frequently returns to variations of a rolling triplet figure that he originally jammed into a pause on the leader's turn.
Personnel: Joe Magnarelli: trumpet, flugelhorn; Peter Bernstein: guitar; Gary Versace: piano; Paul Gill: bass; Tony Reedus: drums.