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Jim Manley: Chilled Brass

Nicholas F. Mondello By

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Some years back as part of an iconic advertising campaign, Absolut Vodka (via its ad agency, TBWA) developed a series of magazine and poster ads that also included one dear to musicians, especially trumpeters. A gorgeous black-background shot of a gleaming silver trumpet with Absolut "bottles" as its valves. It was titled "Absolut Jazz." Chilled Brass from trumpeter Jim Manley is as smooth as silk and, while it might not provide you a liquid "lift," it provides plenty of enjoyable music background to hoisting one up—absolutely.

With this fine follow-up to Manley's recent CD, Short Stories & Tall Tales (Self-produced, 2013), the St. Louis-based trumpeter again engages the use of pre-recorded tracks and superbly arranges and over-records his terrific trumpeting and brass playing. The dozen selections offer Manley the space to demonstrate not only his robust high-note chops, but also his superb jazz improvisation. It also again validates his ability and potential as a top-shelf producer. He knows the stuff of the "staff" and studio.

Some highlights include Manley's bopping and screaming on "Wade in the Water" and the 60s sidewinding "Boogaloo for Zelda." The soulful "Walk on By" has Manley's flugelhorn stretching out under his ballsy brass "section" on the classic Dionne Warwick/Burt Bacharach stroll. Herb Alpert gets channeled with Manley's bouncy "Happy Vibe." There's even a bit of musical humor here via "Clint's Big Boots," an ersatz Spaghetti Western theme featuring Manley's altissimo brass weaponry dueling with echo-strummed guitars.

When working within a pre-recorded music format, Manley wisely keeps all perfectly in tasteful synch with what's already there. He makes the most—both as performer and arranger—of the creative opportunity. The challenge, of course, is that the backgrounds are static as there's no opportunity for the supporting artists and soloist to interplay extemporaneously.

Be alerted that the tonal and textural grooves of some of the accompanying pre-records are familiar within the smooth jazz canon. However, to his credit, Manley's arranging and superb playing over the base makes the entire effort shimmer.

While the smoother jazz presentations of Chilled Brass, like the aforementioned bottled booze might not be for all tastes, it certainly goes down with elegant ease and great taste. Skoal.

Track Listing: Wade in the Water; Midnight Rendezvous; Walk on By; Happy Vibe; The Long Goodbye; Secret Island; Slow Grind; Boogaloo for Zelda; Sneaky Old Pete; Soft Touch; Clint's Big Boots; Song for Isabel.

Personnel: Jim Manley: trumpet, flugelhorn, trombone.

Title: Chilled Brass | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Self Produced

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