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Jim Manley: Brass Poison Too

Nicholas F. Mondello By

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Trumpet players who dwell in the altissimo range of the instrument face multiple dilemmas: they must maneuver the purely physical demands of playing in that extreme register (challenging), perform impeccably (difficult) and display musical grace and ease in doing so (incredibly difficult). Complicating matters, there are always the ghosts of Maynard Ferguson, Bill Chase and others lurking to offer the opportunity for fair or unfair comparisons.

With Brass Poison Too, Jim Manley again demonstrates that he is an incredible talent—a marvelously gifted player and shrewd producer. Unlike some other screamers, Manley realizes that the timbre of the instrument in the high register will easily bore if overplayed. And, as on his prior releases—Brass Poison (Victoria, 2010) and Eight (Victoria, 2008)—Manley the producer wisely incorporates eclectic musical selections, and sources interesting arrangements which showcase his awesome talents and those of his fine-playing cohorts.

The general tone of this session is smooth rock-jazz rather than straight-ahead jazz ("In Style and Rhythm"). There's no shortage of Manley's fireworks, however. He screams with the best and knows his own limitations and those of the horn's upper register. He's not a "valve wiggler"—a player who does not have the creative improv skills, but, who relies on the flurries and flips of their fingers. His solos throughout are well-developed and maturely restrained.

Manley's choice of selections is incredibly savvy and the arrangements are excellent ("Night in Tunisia," presented with a unique triple-time treatment). Manley tips his historical hat to Maynard Ferguson by yanking out Ferguson's "L-Dopa," and to King Crimson with "In the Court of the Crimson King." There's a pervasive sense that Manley channels the innovative trumpeter Don Ellis ("Beirut"—a highlight). While Ellis took time signatures, four-valved trumpets and electronic effects to the forefront, Manley uses subtler textures—different instrumentation mixes and grooves—to achieve fascinating results. Jazz standards such as Eddie Harris's "Listen Here," Dave Brubeck's "Blue Rondo a la Turk" and Tom Scott's "King Cobra" are given fresh facelifts. An odd, but, effective stop is Manley's cover of The Beatles' "Michelle."

Brass Poison Too is an honest, entertaining musical effort that, while not disingenuously attempting a musical breakthrough, validates Jim Manley's reputation as a outstanding musician and a producer extraordinaire. It's a fun, tasty potion.

Track Listing: In Style and Rhythm; Night in Tunisia; L-Dopa; Michelle; Coloring Outside the Lines; Beirut; Semi-Sweet; Court of the Crimson King; King Cobra; Gotta Be One Like This; Listen Here; Blue Rondo a la Turk; Libertango.

Personnel: Jim Manley: trumpet, flugelhorn, valve trombone; Frank Goessler: trumpet; Dan Smith: trumpet; Chris Miller: trumpet; Greg Grooms: trumpet; Jim Owens: trombone; Larry Johnson: tenor saxophone; Joe Bayer: tenor saxophone; Jason Swagler: alto saxophone, flute; Aaron Lehde: baritone saxophone, tenor saxophone; Brett Voelker: drums; Marc Torlina: bass; Jim Owens: piano, organ; Tony Esterly: guitars; Alex Trampe: percussion; Carol Beth True: keyboard; Greg Trampe: strings.

Title: Brass Poison Too | Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: Victoria

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