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Jazz fans have a reason to celebrate with the advent of the new OmniTone jazz label. Coinciding with Frank Kimbrough and Joe Locke’s superb Saturn’s Child (See Nov ’99 AAJ reviews) we have Genius Envy which showcases the monstrous talents of trumpeter/composer Ron Horton. Here, Horton along with fellow Jazz Composers Collective artists, bassist Ben Allison and pianist Frank Kimbrough join forces with the estimable soprano saxophonist Jane Ira Bloom. Horton is touted as a musician’s musician emanating from his fine work as a top-flight session musician and his integral involvement with the JCC. On Genius Envy Horton shines as a formidable composer, arranger and leader while acting as a catalyst of sorts for what is most assuredly a “group” effort. The beat on the street, especially in New York City was the anticipation of Horton’s debut effort for OmniTone as we also get a glimpse of rising stars, tenor saxophonist John McKenna and drummer Rich Rosenzweig.
The opener, “Carla Blake” opens the door for Horton’s – right of passage – as a leader. On this piece Horton displays his intelligence and compositional savvy via this refreshing yet probing arrangement enhanced by the melodically tinged and quite soulful tenor work of solo artist and session musician, John McKenna. On “Long-Term Memories”, bassist Ben Allison establishes the driving pulse as Horton slips into some smooth, sharp soloing within the mid to upper registers as sprightly choruses from McKenna and Horton emphasize the quirky yet appealing melody. “For Thomas Chapin” commences as a moving almost solemn ballad featuring Ms Bloom’s gorgeous utilization of vibrato integrated with passionate, deeply moving articulations. All in all, a heartfelt tribute to the late and sorely missed jazz saxophonist-composer. Horton and Ms Bloom are the “impressionist” painters on the composition titled, “Stark Winter’s Day” as they captures vivid images of a pastoral setting which could be somewhere in the Northeast on a cloudy, calm and cold day. Pianist Frank Kimbrough adds verve and elegance on Horton’s composition titled, “Embrace” while Horton’s “Genius Envy” is frantic, intentionally unsettling as McKenna, Bloom and Horton trade darting lines via alternating solos and rich thematic statements supplemented by furious unison runs with the force and fury of a big band. “Happy and Out of it (on the Beach)” lies somewhere between hard funk – Horace Silver style bop and affable or lighthearted Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass pop as the band occasionally veer off center which amplifies the fun and excitement.
Besides Horton’s technical accomplishments as a soloist, Genius Envy serves as a good indicator of this man’s multifaceted approach as a leader and composer. Not difficult to discern why Horton is highly respected within jazz circles. Genius Envy is mood evoking, poetic, cool, spirited and sure to capture the hearts of many jazz aficionados. Fortunately, jazz fans are now afforded the opportunity to hear the individual talents of the mighty conglomerate known as theJazz Composers Collective. Highly recommended...
Ron Horton; Composer, Trumpet & Flugelhorn: Jane Ira Bloom; Soprano Saxophone: John McKenna; Tenor Saxophone: Frank Kimbrough; Piano: Ben Allison; Bass: Rich Rosenzweig; Drums.