Trumpeter Hugh Ragin made this recording in late '98 in a (mostly) quartet format featuring pianist Craig Taborn, bassist Jaribu Shahid, and drummer Bruce Cox. The tunes, all Ragin originals, range from the sauntering bluesy strut of the title track to fast bebop to free jazz, concluding with a Sun Ra-inspired avant garde accompaniment to poetry read by Amiri Baraka. His liner notes establish the suite as a celebration of life in Harlem.
Ragin obviously plays the starring role here: his total mastery of the trumpet allows him to deliver crystal clear melodies, blistering solos, and twisted screaming avant interludes without hesitation. The rest of his band, though competent, certainly does not inspire any great awe. While Ragin's emphasis on composition provides plenty of formal structure, he seems to exercise his creative powers most stunnningly in the free jazz and avant garde settings. In this end of the musical spectrum, Ragin's musical voice is unique and unparalleled.
Track Listing: An Afternoon in Harlem, Not a Moment Too Soon, Braxton's Dues, The Moors of Spain, Wisdom and Overstanding, The Light at the End of the Underground Railroad, When Sun Ra Gets Blue.
Personnel: Hugh Ragin, trumpet; Jaribu Shahid, bass; Bruce Cox, drums; Andrew Cyrille, drums & percussion; Craig Taborn, piano; Amiri Baraka, voice; David Murray, bass clarinet.
I've always loved jazz ...my mother was a classical pianist and my aunt was a blues singer, who was managed by Clarence Williams (Bessie Smith's producer). As a young boy, they introduced me to people like Louis Armstrong, Sarah Vaughan, and Jimmy Smith
I've always loved jazz ...my mother was a classical pianist and my aunt was a blues singer, who was managed by Clarence Williams (Bessie Smith's producer). As a young boy, they introduced me to people like Louis Armstrong, Sarah Vaughan, and Jimmy Smith. We hung out at my Aunt Kate's Soul Food restaurant in Harlem after the matinees at the Apollo where I listened to their stories. I knew I wanted to be a jazz musician from then on. My mother wanted me to play piano, but my Aunt bought me a guitar. I've been playing ever since.
At my mother's early prompting, I first sang Blue Velvet at my Catholic elementary school...and all the nuns came running in and asked me to sing again, so I knew I must have sounded pretty good. I've been singing ever since.
I met Tony Bennett in Miami and he inspired me to return to New York. He was a great mentor.
The best show I ever attended is mpossible to say, I've seen so many great shows. From Tony Bennett to Pat Martino, Return to Forever to Weather Report...I've seen some great performances.
My advice to new listeners is don't let jazz intimidate you, the music has something for every listener and it is our American gift to the world.