As a trombonist Davis is quite good but perhaps a slide away from great, and clever enough not to upstage any of his guests. He takes his share of solos, each of which is solicitously well-designed, but usually after letting the trumpeters have their say, which is a sensible course of action considering that the visitors include such prodigiously talented artists as Eddie Henderson, Randy Brecker, Ryan Kisor, Bobby Shew, Scott Wendholt, Tom Harrell and Chuck Findley.
Everyone plays trumpet except Shew and Harrell, who use the flugelhorn on their respective features, “Zona” and “Cole Henry” (the only songs not written especially for this album). Others we’ve not yet mentioned are the New York Philharmonic’s Phil Smith (C trumpet) and crossover artist Chris Botti (“Blue Day”), Malcolm McNab (Eb trumpet on “Big City”) and Jim Hynes who duets with Davis on the brief but effective closing number, “Family Tree.”
Davis’ tunes, tailored to suit the personalities of his guests, are respectable and serve their purpose without drawing undue attention to themselves. The same can be said of the rhythm sections (there are basically two). There’s not much to choose between the piano/bass/drums crews of Alan Pasqua/Dave Carpenter/Will Kennedy or Phil Markowitz/Jay Anderson/Adam Nussbaum (who is replaced on “Brass Walk” and “San Jose” by Jeff Ballard), as each of them is able-bodied and flexible without being obtrusive. As for the soloists (including Davis, Markowitz and Pasqua), it is enough to assert that they do nothing to tarnish their well-earned reputations.
Aside from a handful of fades and a playing time of less than fifty minutes, there’s nothing about Trumpets Eleven that is less than laudatory. Everyone toes the mark and follows the script, enabling the bright and irrepressible bundle of energy known as Michael Davis to succeed again with a little help from his friends.
Track Listing: Permit Required; C to Z; Blue Day; Brass Walk; Zona; San Jose; Big City; Cole Henry; Schapa; Family Tree (49:13).
Personnel: Michael Davis, composer, arranger, trombone; Eddie Henderson, Randy Brecker, Phil Smith, Chris Botti, Ryan Kisor, Bobby Shew, Scott Wendholt, Malcolm McNabb, Tom Harrell, Chuck Findley, Jim Hynes, trumpet; Phil Markowitz (1, 3, 4, 6 8), Alan Pasqua (2, 5, 7, 9), piano; Jay Anderson (1, 3, 4, 6, 8), Dave Carpenter (2, 5, 7, 9), bass; Adam Nassau (1, 3, 8), Will Kennedy (2, 5, 7, 9), Jeff Ballard (4, 6), drums.
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