Preferring tonal clarity and precise lines, trumpeter Ron Horton eschews the extended manipulations frequently associated with contemporary improvisers. But the warm resonance of his sound and the fluidity of his improvisations ensure that he's never stodgy, as evidenced on this fourth CD as a leader. While the title plays with the notion of preoccupation with the latest electronic toys, the music illustrates the enduring pliability and vibrancy of a taut acoustic quartet.
Often minimal, the tunes have their own character and story, with ample space for improvisation. Ben Allison's syncopated, percussive bass opens the title track, mirrored by Antonio Zambrini's piano and punctuated by trumpet, the melody emerging from the rhythmic line. Horton's solo boasts quirky dynamic shifts and several clarion blasts, while the bassist plays off the groove with funky fills, aided by Tony Moreno's hi-hat. The austere coolness of Horton's flugelhorn colors the delicate piano and open movement of Zambrini's "Gaia," both players unfurling melodic improvs before entering a spirited dialogue that concludes the piece.
Horton adeptly uses subtle gestures for great impact. The slight quaver of his tone imparts emotional depth to the balladic "Waiting for That" while the alternation between fleet runs and single blasts builds the drama of his "Toeing the Line." It begins with pulsing bass and brushed drums, gathering momentum behind the leader with bluesy piano staggering over strutting bass. After the formal introduction of Zambrini's "Old West," a galloping groove springs under Horton's intervallic leaps and swirling lines, his concluding whinny invoking the titular theme. Andrew Hill's "Laverne" is jaunty, with bursts of note clusters forming the melody and provoking a sparring drums and trumpet exchange.
Blending poignancy and wit, Horton's music exudes a sincerity more irresistible than a new gadget.
It's a Gadget World; Gaia; Waiting for That; Shorter; 9x9; Toeing the Line; Old West; Chorale; Laverne.
Ron Horton: trumpet, flugelhorn; Antonio Zambrini: piano; Ben Allison: double-bass; Tony Moreno: drums.