Suresh Singaratnam: Lost In New York (2010)
Born in Zambia but brought up in Toronto, Canada, trumpeter Suresh Singaratnam is formally trained in both jazz and classical music, latterly at the Manhattan School of Music. Lost In New York is an album of original compositions that chronicles the young musician's early years in the city. It's a mix of experiences and emotions that are reflected in the tunes, which are divided into three groups of three to reflect the major changes in those early years.
"Temporal Incursions" is an impressive openera 10-minute opus that displays Singaratnam's inventiveness as a writer. It also establishes his credentials as a trumpeter, with a slight softness to his tone that gives his playing a degree of warmth and makes his sound a fine match for the tenor of Jake Saslow. Guitarist Jesse Lewis is also a crucial element of "Temporal Incursions," his style shifting from washes of sounds reminiscent of Robert Fripp to single note runs with some resemblance to John McLaughlin; both critical to the tune's changing moods.
"M104" showcases some excellent musicianship from the band, with tenor saxophonist Saslow, pianist Fabian Almazan and bassist Fraser Hollins especially noteworthy. "Beneath a Smile" opens with a jaunty swing-style chorus from Singaratnam and Saslow's warm tenor sax, then moving into a more reflective mood, with Lewis adding a spare but atmospheric single note solo. The tune ends with a return to the happier, more upbeat, opening melody.
On "Spring for All But Me" Almazan is replaced by pianist Jamie Reynolds, while Charenée Wade adds vocals: Singaratnam is the only other performer on the track, adding a beautifully observed solo. Reynolds has a delicate and spacious style that suits the song's rather melancholic lyric, as Wade sings with finesse, despite a voice that's a little harsh in the upper register. The sleeve notes (by fellow Manhattan School graduate Nathaniel Smith) compare Singaratnam's lyrics, rather over-optimistically, to Johnny Mercer; "Children trade their warm coats for lighter wear" sounds great the way Wade phrases it, but the rest of the lyric lacks subtlety.
The final section reflects an apparent upturn in Singaratnam's New York experience; the three songs collectively the disc's strongest and most engaging: "Remnants of Eternity" is warm, contemplative and friendly; "She Spoke Well" has an optimistic feel, with a fluid solo from Almazan; and "Peripheral Fission" is a powerful closer, underpinned, much of the time, by Singaratnam's frantic trumpet, counterpointed by Saslow's simpler, but more engaging sax. An impressive work, Lost In New York gives the strong impression of a confident and talented composer and musician, part of the city rather than lost within it.
Track Listing: Temporal Incursions; M104; Beneath a Smile; Spring for All But Me; Chrysanthemum; Fortress of Song; Remnants of Eternity; She Spoke Well; Peripheral Fission.
Personnel: Suresh Singaratnam: trumpet; Jake Saslow: tenor saxophone; Jesse Lewis: guitar; Fabian Almazan: piano; Fraser Hollins: bass; Lee Pearson: drums: Jamie Reynolds: piano (4); Charenée Wade: vocals (4).
Record Label: Suresong Music