Compared to the postwar saxophone lineage, the path of trumpet improvisation to a mature language is laid out in a skittering absence, a physicality more befitting a hummingbird than a hawk. In contrast to Trane or Bird, Miles created his phraseology from absence and ephemerality, an unsolid weight demarcated by a decidedly material lack. As undeniably massive as the music of Bill Dixon is, it is similarly structured on absence, even as those wisps are piled up to create slabs of raw freedom and energy. Two notable recent solo discs from trumpeters Peter Evans and Kelly Pratt open up the trumpet's diction for further evaluation.
Evans is a recent transplant to New York, having grown up in Boston and studied at Oberlin. His most regular association is with Mark Gould's New York Trumpet Ensemble, though he's also worked with Anthony Braxton and Butch Morris. More is More is the first widely-available recording of his own music. What sets Evans' music apart from the brittle shards of his predecessors is that its largesse is created through a clear presence, a linguistic structure hinging more on the trade secrets of free-leaning saxophonists, trombonists and bassists. For sure, Dixon is a precedent - the fancy footwork of his mid '70s solo trumpet recordings engenders explosiveness and purity of sound, even where the canvas is a shade away from unprimed. Evans acknowledges this, his smears like swaths in a framework of guttural growls.
"Sentiment barrels like a freight train as he times out his relay with thunks of the keys. Poise and exultation are the seeds of his improvisation on "Vegetation , the most traditionally trumpet-like of the pieces here. An interesting part of Evans' palette is the use of the piccolo trumpet; he's able to channel both a soprano saxophone and high arco-like harmonics at the outset of "Ritual , even as he dredges multiphonics from somewhere down the river.
His work is downright manhandling, wringing a panoply of sonic possibilities from an instrument whose physicality is rarely exposed. Evans chirps and chortles his way into the bore, dense and austere, carving out and refining another direction on his instrument of choice.
Another facet of Dixon's solo work (and certainly that of others) has been the use of overdubbing, allowing orchestral mass within the sparest of contexts. Kelly Pratt, a trumpeter whose work has transcended genres into both improvisation and the Balkan-derived folk-rock of the band Beirut, makes judicious use of multitracking and additional expansive effects on Solo Works for Trumpet and Flugelhorn.
"Truffaut , the opener, is a meditative and atmospheric piece for flugelhorn and delay, a sonic hanging sculpture that fills up perceived spaces with gauzy refraction. Unlike the meaty improvisations of More is More, Pratt's work is both more clearly composed and significantly airier. "Herzog takes a cue from cabaret and splits it through a pitch-divider, while "Tarkovsky employs synthesized delays as a chunky canvas for Pratt's trilling improvisation. Though clocking in at just under 25 minutes, Solo Works does make its point clearly - that Kelly Pratt is a figure to watch.
Tracks and Personnel
more is more
Tracks: Sentiment; Ritual; Vegetation; Air; Slender Explosions of Noises; Children's Voices from Over on the Other Side; Clothes of Inhabitants Near or Far Away.
Personnel: Peter Evans: piccolo trumpet, trumpet.
Solo Works for Trumpet & Flugelhorn
Tracks: Truffaut; Herzog; Kobayashi; Tarkovsky; Jarmusch; Gilliam (Live).
Personnel: Kelly Pratt: trumpet, flugelhorn.