8

Ambrose Akinmusire at Dazzle, Denver, June 21, 2014

Geoff Anderson By

Sign in to view read count
Ambrose Akinmusire
Dazzle
Denver
June 21, 2014 Einstein taught us that time is a relative thing. Time can pass, or seem to pass, at different rates depending on how fast you are moving; especially in relation to an observer who is moving at a different speed. For Ambrose Akinmusire and his quintet, time is a relative thing too. And it may well be different for the observers than it is for the band.

Akinmusire brought his quintet to Dazzle for a two night stand of his own brand of jazz. This is a band that is mostly innocent of the charge of swinging. While many of the tunes Saturday night seemed to have a steady beat, spotting a time signature often proved elusive. Other times, when the band momentarily established a rhythmic structure, it would quickly and subtly morph into another time. On one song, a 3/4 beat imperceptively shifted to 4/4 and soon after became a 2/4 beat.

So don't go to an Akinmusire concert planning to dance. Plan to listen. And think. This is cerebral stuff. Most of the band has been together for some time and Saturday night they were able to navigate the twists and turns of the complicated music and never run aground. The music fell within the broad category of "jazz," so soloing by all band members constituted a big part of the evening. Like the time signatures, the ensemble playing ebbed and flowed and did not always follow a more traditional head-solos-head pattern. One of the slower tunes was built around a simple ascending four note line that was passed around the band like a newly legalized Colorado joint. Sometimes one player jumped on it and twisted it around, other times two or three members would work it simultaneously. Another time, Akinmusire and sax man Walter Smith, III took it together and Akinmusire played the standard ascending line while Smith took a descending line creating a new harmony with each stop along the way.

Akinmusire's solos varied widely. Generally, he had a mellow, breathy tone. He typically stayed in the mid to lower ranges of his trumpet only occasionally going aloft into the Stratosphere (or Faddisphere or Fergusonsphere). His solos ranged from introspective to urgent and intensely pleading. Smith, too, offered a number of intense solos, some of which featured body English that looked like he was chopping wood.

The rhythm section was steady, brooding and often ominous. Harish Raghavan on bass chugged relentlessly through the time changes, the free time and everything else the band dished out. Justin Brown on drums was obviously no mere time-keeper because, well, time was often either irrelevant or not a high priority. Nevertheless, he was constantly all over his drum kit working new patterns and sounds and adding punctuation where needed.

Sam Harris on piano is the newest member of the quintet. He spent most of his time on the grand piano, but took a couple turns on the Rhodes electric piano—the only non-acoustic instrument on the band stand. He took a couple solos; real solos where no one else played. That allowed him complete flexibility with time, accelerating and decelerating at will. For the encore, only Harris accompanied Akinmusire on what was probably the most conventional tune of the evening. Although not specifically recognizable, it sounded like it could have easily been something from the Cole Porter songbook.

Akinmusire named his latest album The Imagined Savior is Far Easier to Paint (Blue Note, 2014), indicating again, his cerebral approach to his craft. He has collected a number of awards over the last few years including winning the 2007 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition and he was named 2012 Trumpet Player of the Year by DownBeat Magazine's Critics' poll among a number of other honors. He is viewed by many as an up and coming jazz star. How far can he go? Time will tell.

Related Video

Shop

More Articles

Read Ted Ludwig Trio at Little Rock's South on Main Live Reviews Ted Ludwig Trio at Little Rock's South on Main
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: March 28, 2017
Read Brilliant Corners 2017 Live Reviews Brilliant Corners 2017
by Ian Patterson
Published: March 27, 2017
Read Dwiki Dharmawan's Pasar Klewer Plays Indonesia Live Reviews Dwiki Dharmawan's Pasar Klewer Plays Indonesia
by John Ephland
Published: March 25, 2017
Read "Peter Wolf & the Midnight Travelers at City Winery" Live Reviews Peter Wolf & the Midnight Travelers at City Winery
by Mike Perciaccante
Published: September 17, 2016
Read "Gregory Porter At The Ulster Hall, Belfast" Live Reviews Gregory Porter At The Ulster Hall, Belfast
by Ian Patterson
Published: April 6, 2016
Read "Hyde Park Jazz Festival 2016" Live Reviews Hyde Park Jazz Festival 2016
by Mark Corroto
Published: October 4, 2016
Read "Siena Jazz 2016" Live Reviews Siena Jazz 2016
by Duncan Heining
Published: August 12, 2016
Read "George Benson at Denver Botanic Gardens" Live Reviews George Benson at Denver Botanic Gardens
by Geoff Anderson
Published: September 21, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!