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Vaughn Nark: Somethin' Special

Jim Santella By

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The high-note trumpet specialist can amaze an audience with his awesome physical strength and stamina, but quite often forgoes expressiveness through his concentration on lofty athletic feats. Vaughn Nark has solid support and a controlled manner in the "stratospheric" register; he finishes "My Funny Valentine" with an "A" above double "C." But it’s a welcome surprise to learn from this, his first major release, that the well-rounded clinician also includes heartfelt expression, swing, and other fundamental elements in his session. Mavens of the trumpet high-note routine include Cat Anderson, Maynard Ferguson, Bill Chase, Dizzy Gillespie and Jon Faddis. Nark is most influenced by Gillespie, dedicates this album to the unique trumpeter/singer, and includes two of the artist’s compositions. A baby boomer and veteran of about 20 years with the U.S. Air Force Airmen Of Note, Nark overdubs his recording by supplying the sounds of a trumpet and trombone section himself.

Dizzy Gillespie’s "Fiesta Mojo" includes some brilliant flute work from Tim Eyermann; the doubled melodic lines between flutist and trumpeter find Nark an octave above. Eyermann’s warm lower-register flute solo is followed by fours with the trumpeter; the latter includes a sample of the flutist’s trademark in-your-face tongued attacks. Nark’s theme of contrasting warm & emotional with high & dry extends through to each of the other performers. Tenor saxophonist Saul Miller’s gentle saxophone solo on Gillespie’s "Tanga" is followed by Nark’s mellow flugelhorn response and acoustic bass spotlights colored by congas and light Latin drum work. Tom Williams’ acoustic bass is featured as well on Benny Carter’s "The Courtship," which again pairs the trumpeter with Miller’s easygoing sound. Peter Fraize, whose day job is Director of Jazz Studies at George Washington University, supplies a dramatic fired-up feature on John Coltrane’s "Impressions." Freddie Hubbard’s "Povo" provides an opportunity for piano and electric guitar to recreate some early 1970s-era electronic funk, while "My Funny Valentine" offers a sample of Eyermann’s firm alto saxophone work in partnership with Nark’s trumpet. The leader sings expressive tales on "My Funny Valentine" and "She Was Too Good to Me," revealing a gentle vocal style not unlike that of Chet Baker. His high-power scatting on "Billie’s Bounce" clearly pays tribute to the memory of Dizzy Gillespie, as does the session’s well-balanced approach to the various sides of a trumpeter’s repertoire. Recommended.


Track Listing: Softly as in a Morning Sunrise; Fiesta Mojo; My Funny Valentine; Tanga; Billie

Personnel: Vaughn Nark- trumpet, flugelhorn, valve trombone, baritone horn, percussion, vocal on "My Funny Valentine" and "She Was Too Good to Me"; Tim Eyermann- alto saxophone on "My Funny Valentine," flute on "Fiesta Mojo"; Peter Fraize- tenor saxophone on "Softly as in a Morning Sunrise" and "Impressions"; Fred Hughes- acoustic piano, keyboards; Keith Killgo- drums; Saul Miller- tenor saxophone; Alfredo Mojica- percussion; Rick Whitehead- acoustic guitar, electric guitar; Tom Williams- acoustic bass, electric bass.

Title: Somethin' Special | Year Released: 1998


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