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Mac Gollehon: In The Spirit Of Fats Navarro

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The broad listening public may be starting to perceive the exhilarating trumpeting of Mac Gollehon. However, the musicians and entertainers have known about him for a long time.

Having performing with top-shelf music industry icons like Madonna, David Bowie, Diana Ross, Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon and Mick Jagger, Gollehon understands the necessity to entertain audiences through the power of his instrument. And he has learned to improvise on-the-spot solos that thrill listeners, even as he weaves a story and mood into them.

Don't let his pop music background credentials fool you. Mac Gollehon approaches trumpet from the Lester Bowie school of anything-goes jazz. With references to the blues, rock, gospel, R&B and jazz classics, Gollehon's focus is on the communicative effectiveness of his trumpet in getting an audience off its feet and dancing and shouting. Musicians who have learned their craft in front of live audiences night after night engage people in their music and in their spirit with irresistible appeal.

Gollehon nails the force and persuasiveness of brass instruments from the first vamp of the first tune, "Spinal," which breaks down listeners' defenses with the pure joy of the music. Backed by his smokin' horn section of Frank Lacy, Bill Hollomon and Ronnie Cuber, Gollehon's solos are punched with bright and sharp horn-section accents before the horn men themselves break out into spirited solos.

The inspiration for this CD was a celebration of the music of Fats Navarro, who had died exactly 50 years before the recording date in 2000. Even at that age of 27, Navarro had already created a persona of his own among jazz enthuasiasts, many of whom thought that he would have been one of the premier jazz trumpeters had he lived longer. Navarro's fat, round tone is reminiscent of Gollehon's, and the CD includes several of Navarro's compositions, as well as some that are associated with him, such as Tadd Dameron tunes.

Even during a tune on which Gollehon is expected to be subdued, such as the 5/4 version of Navarro's "Nostalgia," it seems that Gollehon can't keep from catching fire with breath-taking runs, slurs and prods to the rhythm section. On "Fats Blows," the boppish nature of the tune doesn't prevent Gollehon from screaming—actually almost whistling, so high are the notes—when he trades fours with drummer Ronnie Burrage. When the Smokin' Section slows down to memorialize Navarro on "Blues For Fats," they assume a Brass Fantasy-like 6/8 New Orleans attitude, complete with baritone saxophone richness, chorused street marching references, and trumpeted growls and smears and blurts and gutteralisms and.

The success of In The Spirit Of Fats Navarro relies on the energy of the sidemen as well. Lacy goes gutbucket on "Blues For Fats" to lend a spirit of rising emotion and vocalization through his instrument. James Hurt, shorn of electronica, develops a logical solo in the middle of "Fats Blows" that advances the tunes from statement of theme to an aggressive interactivity among the band members. Bill Hollomon drenches "Bebop Revolution" with B-3 funk and urgency. And Ronnie Cuber, filling out the bottom range of the Smokin' Section with his baritone sax, creates the excitement of "Mac Blows" with extended choruses fully involved in the uplifting mood of the music.

Recording sporadically since 1993, but being far from inactive, Mac Gollehon has absorbed the spirit of Navarro, Lester Bowie, Booker Little, Clifford Brown and even Dizzy Gillespie and emerged with a restless and driving style of his own.

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Track Listing: Spinal, EB-POB, Blues For Fats, Nostalgia, Fats Blows, Boperation, Dance Of The Infidels, Ten Til Twilight, Mac Blows, Our Delight, Bebop Revolution (with narrative vocal)

Personnel: Mac Gollehon, trumpet; Bill Holloman, sax, B-3 organ; Ronnie Cuber, baritone sax; Frank Lacy, trombone; James Hurt, piano; Lonnie Plaxico, bass; Ronnie Burrage, drums; Tamm E. Hunt, vocals

Record Label: Half Note Records

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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