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Al Hood and the H2 Sextet: Jazz Muses

Nicholas F. Mondello By

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There's something fascinating about the word "inspire." We know from Latin that the word derives from inspirare, meaning "to breathe" or "blow into." It is the perfect theme as presented for trumpeter Al Hood and the H2 Sextet's terrific album, Jazz Muses. Not only is Hood inspired by his Jazz Muses, but his blowing here takes inspiration full-circle. It is an enthralling and highly inspired work.

Well-known in trumpet and jazz education circles, Hood is also a professor at Denver University and a foremost authority on jazz great, Clifford Brown. He and his H2 team offer 10 classic jazz tunes with superior jazz playing across the board. Further, each track "acknowledges" the ladies that inspired the famous trumpeters associated with the compositions presented. "Cleopatra's Asp," is an asp-kicking burner with Hood and tenor Pete Sommer blazing through Doc Severinsen's exotic melody before they and pianist Hanson solo. "Michelle," is a Clark Terry-composed ballad that presents Hood and Will Swindler beautifully covering the Duke Ellington-esque theme followed by a killer Hood statement. The sextet nails its takes on Blue Mitchell's perky calypso "Fungii Mama" and Bobby Shew's balladic bossa, "Nadalin." Both tracks glow on Hood's gilded tone.

From note one on this album, Hood exudes an abondonza of joy, inspiration and soul in his playing. If Erroll Garner played trumpet this is how he would sound. The professor is a swashbuckler too, wielding his horn and spilling out ideas in a classic bebop style—and, that emotion never lets up throughout. Dave Hanson's keys and the rhythm section are up to the task brilliantly here, supporting Hood's explorations and "infection" with fervor.

"Miss Nettie B," a Lee Morgan composition, is a triple-feel stroll with saxophones Swindler and Sommer stepping forth. Bop great Fats Navarro's eponymously titled "Fat Girl" is pure "Royal Roost." Hanson offers a tasty solo before Hood swings hard and high and then turns the lights down with Clifford Brown's tender serenade, "LaRue," and Freddie Hubbard's "Brigitte." Woody Shaw's"Katerina Ballerina" is a triple-metered modern mood. The album concludes with a multi-tracked Hood and the team burning up "Donna Lee." Sax men Peter Sommer and Wil Swindler solo superbly, as does Dave Hanson on keyboard. Bassist Ken Walker and drummer Paul Romaine all are not only H2, but A-1. Thomas Cunniffe's fabulous liner notes are worth the price of admission.

The "breath" that enters the ether from Hood's axe and from those of his band mates is gilded, all soul, joy and heart. It's unfortunate that all of the aforementioned greats and their inspired "ladies" aren't around to hear this album. Then again, maybe inspiration flows Heavenly.

Track Listing: Cleopatra's Asp, Michelle, Fungii Mama, Nadalin, Miss Nettie B, Fat Girl, LaRue, Brigitte. Katerina Ballerina, Donna Lee.

Personnel: Al Hood: trumpet and flugelhorn; Dave Hanson: piano and all arrangements; Ken Walker: bass; Paul Romaine: drums; Peter Sommer: tenor sax; Wil Swindler: alto sax.

Title: Jazz Muses | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: Aquarian Records


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