Trumpeter Ron Horton established a reputation as a player’s player—able to hear, and provide, whatever the music needed—through his gigs with pianist Andrew Hill, saxophonist Jane Ira Bloom and the many faces of the Jazz Composers Collective. Subtextures, his second CD as a leader, highlights his considerable talents as a composer and arranger. With the support of long time musical cohorts—pianist Frank Kimbrough and the busy rhythm team of bassist Ben Allison and drummer Matt Wilson—Horton’s cleanly phrased trumpet confidently glides through the recording.
Hill’s “Cantarnos” finds Horton’s lyrical solo lines floating over the intro before seamlessly blending into the melody. Kimbrough’s solo plays with the composition’s movement and Wilson changes up the groove, keeping a sense of momentum without repetition, before taking his own runs between group passages. “Malaby” evokes its namesake’s (i.e. saxophonist Tony) penchant for rhythmic ensemble themes and open forms that provoke improvisation, and is a perfect vehicle for Allison’s solo. “Ruminations” and the arrangement of Messiaen’s “O Sacrum Convivium” showcase Horton’s enchanting melodic playing and tasteful reticence.
The mid-tempo title track grants the leader room to stretch, his solo demonstrating his faculty and creativity on the trumpet by using combinations of fast runs and sustained notes to tell a story. Kimbrough’s solo mirrors that spirit, providing a nice counter to the horn. The two have a spirited exchange on the up-tempo burner “Mutability,” which has an offbeat groove and quirky melody. Wilson’s drumming flurry spurs Horton’s muted trumpet and takes the tune out. An elegant reworking of Chopin, on “Etude,” acts as an epilogue and closes the CD.
The spontaneity and clarity of the performances on Subtextures belie the carefully conceived compositions and arrangements. And as the title suggests, they show that Horton has more to offer than just his horn.