Until 1999, Hugh Ragin was vastly under-recorded. Appearing sporadically with David Murray, Anthony Braxton, D.D. Jackson or Roscoe Mitchell, Ragin inserted his individualistic style into his sounds, provoking an undercurrent of demand for more fully realized work. Justin Time followed up on Ragin's promise when it released An Afternoon In Harlem last year, a message-laden project that combined the energy of Harlem with Sun Ra-inspired spirituality and ruminations about escapes from slavery.
On Fanfare & Fiesta, messages are laid aside so that Ragin and his fellow musicians can revel in the joy created by unfettered trumpeting. This second Ragin album is recommended for anyone who perceives truth and inspiration in the extroverted sound of the instrument.
Trumpet and flugelhorn legend Clark Terry contributes hilariously and flawlessly to two of his own compositions. As a result, he alters the language and attitude of the group of younger trumpeters through the force of his personality expressed through his horns. In fact, part of the rationale for the recording of Fanfare & Fiesta was Ragin's attempt to recapture the spirit of an earlier Chicago performance composed of himself, C.T., Marcus Belgrave and Lew Soloff.
Terry's "Finger Filibuster" consists of a blues adorned with brass lines unmistakably associated with his flowing style. After Terry's and Ragin's introduction of the theme, the tune splits into the trumpet quartet and the flugelhorn master trading fours with drummer Bruce Cox. But the track that makes Clark Terry's presence a level above his apperance on many other albums is his pulling-your-leg combination of Mumbles talk with spurious Spaceman talk on "Spacemen." After Terry and Ragin indulge in put-on teacher-and-student "gibberish" on the trumpets, they break into a rocketing "Jupiter dance" consisting of trademark mumbles, muted trumpet vocalizations and extroverted solos over altered "I've Got Rhythm" changes.
Fanfare & Fiesta is much more than backing up a guest appearance by one of the icons of the trumpet.
Ragin chose the correct title for the album because it connotes a celebration established by the sound of brassmenand that's what it is. The song "Fanfare & Fiesta" (appearing for the first time in 1997 on D.D. Jackson's Justin Time CD, Paired Down Volume One) recalls the importance of the trumpet in creating flamenco references and Mexican allusions, particularly regarding bullfights. Having grown up in southern Texas, Ragin had early exposure to some of this music, which, frankly, hasn't been heard much since Miles Davis' sublime Sketches Of Spain and the heyday of Herb Alpert's Tijuana Brass.
But Fanfare & Fiesta is much more than recalling childhood influences.
One would think, what with all of the Lester Bowie references on the album, that Ragin is trying to revive the spirit of Brass Fantasy. But no, Ragin's real inspiration, as one realizes listening to Fanfare & Fiesta, is the World Saxophone Quartet. That group's free and unplanned interactive improvisation set the stage for "Harmonic Architecture," for instance. After an exclamatory chorus of forceful accents, wide intervals, lower-register trills and smears, Omar Kabir, backed by the other brassmen, uses his wah-wah mute to simulate human conversation (as does Clark Terry) over indeterminate changes. Zollar and Ragin do the same thing in a spirited dialogue before all of the brass players improvise freely. Part II of the tune presents Ragin punctuating drum and piano interjections with wide-ranging intervals of single notes.
But Fanfare & Fiesta is much more than imitating the human voice through the trumpet.
Ragin pays tribute to Lester Bowie's vast influence in opening up the potential of the sound of the trumpet when the brass quartet performs Bowie's "How Strange." With expected growls and tales of woe communicated through the plunger mutes and long tones without the rhythm section, "How Strange" becomes a meditation developed over a drone-like sound. It's appropriate, then, that Ragin's "A Prayer For Lester Bowie" borrows the same technique, long tones sustained in meditation in the same key as "How Strange." Ingeniously, Ragin arranges for the individuals in the quartet to hold out the same note, as in prayer, over bassist Jaribu Shahid's introductory solo, one replacing the other after several measures. Then, the meditation becomes a canon, the trumpets repeating the leader's statement in a round of sound.
Special mention should be made of the Trumpet Ensemble's rhythm section as well, two of whomJaribu Shahib and Craig Tabornappeared on the early James Carter recordings. Combined with drummer James Cox, the section is ready for any development that the Ensemble may shape as it explores the compositions. Accustomed to James Carter's unpredictability, Taborn responds to the Ensemble's suggestions with energetic and imaginative work that enhances the total effect, such as his full-keyboarded workout on "Emergency Exit,".
Much more than an a single musical tribute or musical element, Fanfare & Fiesta is a full-bodied CD that brings together all of Ragin's influences for the first time and presents what may become his working ensemble.
Track Listing: Finger Filibuster*, Fanfare & Fiesta, Spacemen*, Barnyard Scuffel Shuffel, How Strange, Harmonic Architecture, A Prayer For Lester Bowie, Emergency Exit
Personnel: Hugh Ragin, Clark Terry*, Dontae Winslow, Omar Kabir, James Zollar, trumpet; Craig Taborn, piano; Jaribu Shahid, bass; Bruce Cox, drums
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.