This is the debut recording by trumpeter Darren Barrett who in ’97 won the annual international Jazz competition sponsored by the Thelonious Monk Institute. The man clearly has exceptional chops and enthusiasm to match — but he leaves an inescapable impression that what is being said has been recited many times before, often with deeper awareness and broader substance. In other words, purposeful as Barrett and his companions are, there’s nothing notably fresh or absorbing in their repertoire, which consists here of eight original compositions by Barrett (“First One Up” is performed twice) and one each by Steve Allen (“Impossible”) and Thelonious himself (“Reflections”). Barrett sounds much like several of his more recent predecessors (Roy Hargrove, Nicholas Payton, Marcus Printup, Terence Blanchard, Wallace Roney and others) with the obligatory nods toward Freddie Hubbard, Donald Byrd, Lee Morgan and other old–line boppers. One of the drawbacks is that Barrett’s compositions, while earnest in their intent, haven’t much meat on their bones and thus serve mainly as routine springboards for improvisation. Another is that pianist Goldberg could use a more delicate touch to great advantage (and is that him or his piano making those strange noises while he solos?). Barrett’s front–line partners, Greene (on eight tracks) and Garrett (on three), are quite capable but stylistically inseparable from many of their contemporaries. Make no mistake, Barrett shows great promise and gives an exceedingly good account of himself throughout, and First One Up may one day be seen in retrospect as the wellspring of an uncommonly productive career. For now, however, we must observe that “promising” is about as suitable a word as discretion will allow. The more acclamatory phrases may come later.
Track listing: First One Up (take 1); Word! Dr. Byrd; Impossible; 2 to 4; Grand Ravine; Up Down–Inside Outside; Conceta Elfreda; A New Day Comes; Reflections; First One Up (take 2); Dee’s Theme (65:24).
Darren Barrett, trumpet; Aaron Goldberg, piano; Jimmy Greene, tenor, soprano sax; Kenny Garrett, alto sax (1, 6, 10); Reuben Rogers, bass; John Lamkin, drums.