New visions and colorful dreams emanate from the horn and pen of trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire. You would expect the first place winner of the 2007 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Trumpet Competition to come out with his horn a-blazing, voraciously showing his chops. While he does have the honored award and sharpened abilities, his debut recording, Prelude: to Cora, is one that walks quietly yet carries a huge stick of inspiring, focused and enlightened music that is well beyond his youthful expectations.
Like his contemporaries (pianist Robert Glasper, drummer Kendrick Scott and guitarist Mike Moreno), Akinmusire draws inspiration not just within the jazz continuum, but also from his environment: urban and classical persuasions, historical reflection and socially conscious motivation. An example is heard on the audacious opening piece "Dreams of the Manbahsniese"with its construction and execution of melody, the instrument arrangements, classically trained voice by singer Junko Watanabe and the coloring of electronics. It's a conglomeration of new sounds for a new millennium.
All of the music was composed by Akinmusire, with the exception of three tracks, including the lone standard "Stablemates" by saxophonist Benny Golson. Instead of the obligatory hip-funk-swing session, the compositions are well-thought-out and thought-provoking. There are riveting pieces like Aaron Parks' "Ghost Ship," where Akinmusire's warm tone exudes both melancholy and optimism; or the haunting, cinematic vastness of "M.I.S.T.A.G. (My Inappropriate Soundtrack to a Genocide)," with soul-wrenching voice and wailing horns.
Though Akinmusire has burning chops (touches of Clifford Brown, Tomasz Stanko and Terence Blanchard), he altruistically shares his light with the other musicians, purposed towards the larger musical picture and revealing his quiet leadership.
And speaking of the band, Akinmusire is also joined by other young newcomers who donate stimulating performances. Chris Dingman's chilled vibe work highlights the soulful "Aroca," while Walter Smith and Logan Richardson create fiery sax exchanges on "Dingmandingo." Aaron Parks, another bright pianist, joins Akinmusire in a wonderful duo on the swinging "Stablemates," both showing brilliance and a respect to the jazz masters of the past. Last, but surely not forgotten, is the stalwart (and lively) foundation of bassist Joe Sanders and drummer Justin Brown. This is an exceptional debut from an unassuming yet extremely talented new voice.
Dreams of the Manbahsniese; Vibe Solo Intro; Aroca; HumSong (SkidRow Anthem);
M.I.S.T.A.G. (My Inappropriate Soundtrack to a Genocide);
Trumpet Intro/Dedication to Ruby; Ruby; Ghost Ship; Dingmandingo; Stablemates.
Ambrose Akinmusire: trumpet; Aaron Parks: piano; Chris Dingman: vibes; Walter Smith III: tenor saxophone; Joe Sanders: bass; Justin Brown: drums;
Logan Richardson: alto saxophone (5, 9); Junko Watanabe: vocals (1, 5, 7).
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