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Footprints is a New York-based five-piece, formed in 2008 by trumpeter Christoph Siegrist and saxophonist Joshua Kwassman. Together they set out with the intention of exploring the music of trumpeter Miles Davis
' second great quintet, which blazed such a glorious path from '64 until the end of that decade. Repertory has since been largely replaced by original compositions on the group's debut, When You Dream, though Davis' spirit is ever-present despite Siegrist's distinctive, full-bodied tone, refreshingly unlike so many trumpeters inspired by Davis who end up ensnared by his signature sound. If anything, in fact, the influence of saxophonist Wayne Shorter
whose compositions and musical direction were so pivotal to Davis' quintetshapes Footprints' music to a greater degree.
Songwriting credits are shared by Siegrist and Kwassman, and they display considerable maturity in arrangements where the emphasis is on the overall group dynamic. Discipline is key to the group's sound: on "First Flight," pianist Fabian Ortiz maintains a simple vamp throughout, a role reprised by bassist Peter Yuskauskas on "Colombus," allowing saxophone and trumpet acres of space to weave harmonies and interlocking lines. Siegrist and Kwassman solo strongly, though their phrasing, at times, resembles that of Davis and Shorter respectively, particularly on "Columbus."
Ortiz' delicate piano intro to "When You Dream" provides pleasing contrast to the undiminished vibrancy of the opening two tracks, thought the driving rhythm section soon kicks in, propelling Kwassman on a notable solo which evolves from a soft murmur to eventual charging exclamation. The tempo slows on the Shorter-esque ballad, "Green Traveler," a strong composition which balances moody brass introspection with a quiet power emanating from James Muschler's drums, rumbling like a storm gathering. Muschler is a busy drummer who brings urgency to the ensemble reminiscent of drummer Tony Williams
, post-Davis. His fluency and nuance is heard at every turn on "His World Unheard," an ambitious track which shifts seamlessly from impressionistic colors to post-bop scurry, and to the neo-classical lyricism of Ortiz's piano coda.
"Blue World" builds a bridge between late '60s Davis and the trumpeter of a couple of decades later, with call-and-response between trumpet and saxophone, and its buoyant air. The only non-original composition is bassist Ron Carter
/Davis' "Mood," from E.S.P. (Columbia, 1965). Despite its fairly faithful interpretation, Siegrist's fuller sound lacks the brittleness of Davis' performance, which brought a special air to this remarkable tune.
When You Dream serves plenty of notice that Footprints is a quintet of considerable talent. Siegrist and Kwassman have a flair for composition and arrangement, allowing the music to breathe and providing the oxygen which fans the flames of group interplay and stirring individual performance. Footprints may, however, need to step out of Davis and Shorter's considerable shadow to fully realize its obvious potential.
Track Listing: First Flight; Columbus; When You Dream; Green Traveler; Of Time; His World Unheard; Blue World; Mood.
Personnel: Personnel: Christoph Siegrist: trumpet; Joshua Kwassman: alto saxophone; Fabian Ortiz: piano (1, 3, 4, 6-9); Peter Yuskauskas: bass; James Muschler: drums; Glenn Zaleski: piano (2, 5).
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