Recorded in 1994 when young lion Russell Gunn was a mere 23 years old, the Muse album Young Gunn is a quintet session with tenor saxophonist Sam Newsome, pianist John Hicks, bassist Peter Washington, and drummer Cecil Brooks III. This 32 Jazz reissue adds three tracks with a different quintet. Coming from a background that like that of many younger jazz artists, Russell Gunn learned the trumpet in elementary school, enjoyed and benefited from public school instrumental programs, and allowed his musical interests to range far and wide. That he attended the same high school as Miles Davis shows up in Gunn's pretty ballad tone. His experience includes avant-garde work with Oliver Lake, Wynton Marsalis' Blood On The Fields, and Branford Marsalis' Buckshot LeFonque. A more recent recording, Gunn Fu on the High Note label, teams the trumpeter with tenor saxophonist Greg Tardy and flutist Sherman Irby.
The ballads "You Don't Know What Love Is," "There Is No Greater Love," and "Fly Me to the Moon" present straight-ahead mainstream jazz and feature Gunn's lyrical trumpet. "Pannonica," presented as a trumpet-piano duet, offers yet another opportunity to appreciate Gunn's sensitive trumpet tone and manner. The leader's compositions "East St. Louis" and "The Message" represent hard bop ideas with "outside" or avant-garde stretches. The quintet is tight and burns accordingly. "The Concept" invites guest rap artist Chef Word to relate the biographical tale of Russell Gunn's change in focus from everyone's music to jazz. The syncopated hip-hop lyrics include:
"Son of a gun.Old socks, new shoes,Feels kinda like the bluesWith the fat groove.Runnin' the bustos, crush fo's,Chef Word and Russ-o, go with all the gusto.He used to be your MC before we ever played a keister,Got the love as he evolved musically.Straight-ahead, see, as we swing."
Branford Marsalis replaces Sam Newsome on the final three tracks. Recorded in 1995, the additional pieces employ a different piano trio as well, but Gunn is in fine form. He and Marsalis present a fiery hard bop take of Jimmy Heath's "Ginger Bread Boy" that includes solos from all. Recommended.