Brian Lynch: Unsung Heroes (2011)
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Trumpeter extraordinaire Brian Lynch is always willing, quite rightly, to acknowledge the masters who have gone before him. Some of the finest jazz trumpeters never made it big, while others no longer sit as securely in the minds of jazz fans as they once did. Nevertheless, they are all part, as Lynch writes, of "the jazz trumpet tradition" and their talents as players and composers deserve to be remembered and revisited. Unsung Heroes is Lynch's salute to some of these players. It's a superb album: no mere tribute to past masters, it puts their work firmly in the presentliving, breathing, exciting music that is as vibrant in the twenty-first century as it was in the twentieth.
Like Finnish pianist Iiro Rantala's own reflections on past greats, the stunning Lost Heroes (ACT Music, 2011), Unsung Heroes is the work of an exceptionally talented player. Rantala performed solo, but this record features a kick-ass band. Altoist Vincent Herring and pianist Rob Schneiderman are particularly strong, but every player impresses. One of the most stylish solos comes from bassist David Wong on Idrees Sulieman's "Saturday Afternoon At Four," a bop relative of Kurt Weill's "Speak Low."
Lynch's heroes on this album are players whose own work is predominantly from the bebop era and later, men who could play hard and fast but who could also swing, and play with feeling. The writing skills of many of these trumpeters were also exceptional, giving Lynch some terrific compositions to work with, some of which were never recorded by the writers themselves.
Tommy Turrentine's beautiful ballad, "I Could Never Forget You," affords Lynch the opportunity to deliver a masterclass in pure-toned, considered yet emotive playing. Charles Tolliver's "Household of Saud" is a standout ensemble performance as well as featuring one of Lynch's more high-energy solos. Lynch's own tunes are just as enjoyable. "RoditiSamba," dedicated to Claudio Roditi, is smoothly seductive; "Unsung Blues" gives Lynch and Schneiderman the chance to stretch out with a deft lyricism.
This isn't the first time that Lynch has paid tribute to his predecessors: Tribute To The Trumpet Masters (Sharp Nine) appeared in 2000. Unsung Heroes is volume one of an extended project, which includes some fascinating writing by Lynch on his website. The project is a great idea, and on the evidence of this beautiful recording it's also brilliantly executed.
Track Listing: Terra Firma Irma; I Could Never Forget You; Further Arrivals; Saturday Afternoon At Four; Household of Saud; RoditiSamba; Big Red; Unsung Blues; Wetu.
Personnel: Brian Lynch: trumpet, flugelhorn; Vincent Herring: alto saxophone; Alex Hoffman: tenor saxophone; Rob Schneiderman: piano; David Wong: bass; Pete Van Nostrand: drums; Vicente "Little Johnny" Rivero: congas (3, 6).
Record Label: Hollistic MusicWorks
Style: Modern Jazz