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It was no less an authority than Dizzy Gillespie who described multi–instrumental virtuoso Vaughn Nark as “somethin’ special.” Is Nark being immodest in using the compliment as the title of his Summit Jazz debut? Well, as the late poet laureate of baseball, Jerome Herman “Dizzy” Dean, once said, ”It ain’t braggin’ if you can back it up!” Vaughn Nark can back it up. Whether playing trumpet, flugelhorn or valve trombone, the former linchpin of the U.S. Air Force’s Airmen of Note really is somethin’ special — and if looked upon as nothing other than a showcase for Nark’s many talents, his album is too. He’s certainly all over the landscape, wielding his stratospheric Maynard–like trumpet, fleet flugel and nimble valve trombone (sometimes in dubbed duets or even trios), singing (“My Funny Valentine,” “She Was Too Good to Me”), scatting (“Billie’s Bounce”) and even composing (“Quotes & Notes”). Nark does everything so well (he also plays baritone horn and percussion) the last thing he needs are gimmicks to help push the product; but he can’t seem to resist using them anyway. The most vexing are the occasional “echo–chamber” effects that make Nark and his companions sound as though they are playing in an empty airplane hangar (perhaps appropriate for someone who spent nearly 20 years with the Airmen of Note). Once past them, however, there’s an abundance of splendid music to be heard. Nark has as much technique as any brass master you can name, and knows how to swing, even though there are times when he seems content merely to impress. Even the most outrageous high–notes hold no terror, and Nark reaches all of them with ease and assurance — while his playing at faster speeds (“Sunrise,” “Tanga,” Bird’s “Billie’s Bounce,” Coltrane’s “Impressions”) can cause one to wonder, “Did I really hear that?” As “Valentine” and “She Was Too Good” suggest, Nark is an admirer of the late Chet Baker’s vocal style, which he (sort of) adopts, although the voice is far more assured and less vulnerable than Chet’s. Nark’s back–up cr
Track listing: Softly As in a Morning Sunrise; Fiesta Mojo; My Funny Valentine; Tanga; Billie’s Bounce; Quotes & Notes; Impressions; She Was Too Good to Me; The Courtship; Povo (58:14).
Vaughn Nark, trumpet, flugelhorn, valve trombone, baritone horn, vocals, percussion; Tim Eyermann, alto sax; Peter Fraize, Saul Miller, tenor sax; Fred Hughes, piano; Rick Whitehead, acoustic and electric guitar; Tom Williams, acoustic and electric bass; Alfredo Mojica, percussion; Keith Killgo, drums.