When a musician is willing to completely bare his soul to the world, unhampered by thoughts of criticism, the resulting sounds can be refreshingly optimistic and should be regarded as an honest artistic representation of the human experience. Without a hint of restraint, Washington, DC trumpeter Kenny Rittenhouse celebrates the blessings of his life on The Francis Suite, a highly personal, modern jazz tribute to his family.
The title of the disc refers to Rittenhouse's four-movement suite dedicated to his father ("Tiny's Crib ), sisters ("The Sisterhood ), brothers ("Last of the Soul Brothers ) and mother ("Francis ). The pensive nature of "Francis, a light, engaging waltz, is the most compelling of the suite. The subtle contrapuntal effect of alto saxophone against a flowing trumpet melody clears the air for lyrical solos over the tune's colorful harmonic sequence.
With a brawny tone, Rittenhouse approaches his solos with determination and a free spirit of spontaneity, resulting in unpredictable melodic development. The trumpeter's curiosity to explore the outer limits of harmonic boundaries is facilitated by masterful technique and a lyrical imagination. From the soulful swinging lines on "The Sisterhood to the restrained romantic lyricism on "Rhonda Lynne, Rittenhouse communicates in a convincing, vocal-like manner. The influence of Freddie Hubbard is heard unabashedly on the legendary trumpeter's hard-bop anthem "Birdlike.
To aid in his highly personal musical quest, Rittenhouse has called on a stellar crew of like-minded DC musicians who are up to the progressive challenge proposed by his diverse composing and arranging. Antonio Parker has an aggressive approach to the alto saxophone and his biting tone tears through "Malcolm's Return with the tenacity of a pit bull. Trombonist Bill Holmes provides strong support to the ensemble and lays out some swinging funk on "Last of the Soul Brothers. Bassist Michael Bowie, who performs regularly with vocalist Abbey Lincoln, provides top notch support with inventive lineshis lyrical solo on "Amazing Grace is a highlight of the session. Pianist Janelle Gill and drummer J.C. Jefferson, Jr. are wonderful interpreters who navigate the genre-shifting nature of the session flawlessly.
Rittenhouse and company take daring chances that will appeal to a hardcore jazz audience without hindering the music's potential for wider acceptance. Through careful conception and uninhibited performances The Francis Suite is an artistic triumph for an energetic and uncompromising musical visionary.
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