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With Trip to the Casbah, his third release as a leader, Nathan Eklund is firmly establishing himself as one of today's prominent trumpet and flugelhorn players.
A fixture on the New York jazz scene, Eklund has earned credentials as both a student and an instructor, with associations including Joe Lovano, Craig Yaremko's Sync, Richie Cole, Gerald Veasley and Chuck Loeb, and a guest appearance on Spyro Gyra's Grammy-nominated Wrapped in a Dream (Heads Up, 2006). Joining him on Trip to the Casbah are tenor saxophonist Donny McCaslin guitarist John Hart, bassist Bill Moring and drummer Tim Horner.
"Passing Trains" is one of several joyful rides in this set. Moring's bass line helps set the tone early, aided by Horner. Trumpet and sax lead until Hart's solo, while the guitarist's timing and accuracy are top notch. Eklund comes in, and Horner mixes it up in the background, at times sliding across the cymbals. After the trumpet solo, Eklund and Hart go back and forth in a dialogue that's answered by Horner, his responses taking the form of a series of mini solos.
"South Chelan" possesses a soft sound. Eklund and McCaslin share the melody, with the subtle tones of guitar, bass and drums adding to the romantic mood. Eklund takes a long, free-style solo that's punctuated by his supporting cast, particularly Horner. McCaslin also solos, at times sending the tenor into its lower depths, demonstrating the richness and range of the instrument while also making several high-speed passes.
The two-part title song is a lesson in contrasts. "Part 1" is a spirited duet for Eklund and Horner, with rim shots and toms in heavy use. A flare from the trumpet ends "Part 1," with the bass and drums segueing into "Part 2." The mood and melody are basically the same, but the full band is involved this time around. In contrast to "Part 1," McCaslin scores a middle solo, accompanied only by Horner. As he progresses, at times sending the tenor into high squeaks, Hart and Moring return. After a brief trumpet-sax duet, Hart solos, with "Part 2" ending with the same vigor as "Part 1."
The trumpeter/flugelhornist wrote all 10 songs on the record, but with the full ensemble engaged, everyone gets their moments in the spotlight for a total group effort. Trip to the Casbah presents Eklund in that hybrid world of old school jazz with modern sounds.
Track Listing: Toboggan Ride; Passing Trains; Hand Picked from Her Garden; South Chelan; Trip to the Casbah, Part 1; Trip to the Casbah, Part 2; Long Lake; Happiness Is...; Big Bro
Personnel: Nathan Eklund: trumpet, flugelhorn; Donny McCaslin: tenor saxophone; John Hart: guitar; Bill Moring: bass; Tim Horner: drums.