Despite his involvement in other players' groups (most notably David Murray's ensembles), trumpeter Hugh Ragin rarely takes the spotlight for himself. In those rare moments when this Denver-based player leads a group, however, his vision and open-mindedness shine. On Fanfare & Fiesta,
Ragin breaks the mold by improvising in a trumpet quartet (with a rhythm section of piano, bass, and drums). To top it off, the group also features veteran player Clark Terry on flugelhorn. The result: a very "horny" record indeed. (If you're allergic to trumpets, stay away!)
One of Ragin's best features (as leader or sideman) is his sense of perspective. While he's a busy teacher, he's also an avid student. In this case, Clark Terry has something to shareand Ragin is all ears. Apart from the crisp arranged trumpet passages (the "fanfare") and myriad improvised solos (the "fiesta"), the real highlight of Fanfare & Fiesta isironically enoughits vocals. Terry's rapid-fire scatting offers fresh contrast; and his contribution to the hilarious spoken word interchange on "Spacemen" is priceless. An excerpt:
Ragin (The Student): "Ah, Professor Jive, now that you're on Jupiter, I hear that you speak Boopiter Language."
Terry (Professor Jive): "When you Boopiter on your Jupiter, you have to make sure that you Scrupiter, because if you don't, you'll have to [long-rolled "r"] Roopiter. And of that you must be careful..." (etc.)
Enough on that subject. (Sun Ra fans will note the proximity of Saturn to Jupiter.) Fanfare & Fiesta devotes plenty of serious attention to other topics, including open tribute to the late Lester Bowie and the in-and-out tradition of the Art Ensemble of Chicago. So there's a little bit of everything, and because Ragin exercises his sense of perspective, he manages to hold it all together. Highly recommended for listeners with an ear for swinging jazz, occasional free improvisation, and moments of stark humor.