All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

138

Valery Ponomarev: The Messenger

AAJ Staff By

Sign in to view read count
Valery Ponomarev’s latest release, The Messenger, reminds us that he still is a leading jazz trumpet player who has remained consistent through his years on the scene. His tone is still as bright as ever, and his licks are entirely appropriate for the solos he improvises, and his presence elevates the sidemen who work with him. Even though he doesn’t seem to call his group Universal Language any longer, Ponomarev’s style still is one that makes use of music as a wordless language that can reach the hearts of listeners and unify them in spirit. In that sense, Ponomarev, first coming to public attention as a Jazz Messenger, is a messenger in a larger sense of the word, as are all jazz musicians who become a channel for a universal message. That message usually involves truth.

Ponomarev’s journey to the realization of truth was one that few other jazz artists have taken: surreptitious flight from from his native country by deceit. But it worked. Pretending to be part of a legal Jewish emigration exodus, Ponomarev joined them and flew from the country to Vienna. And eventually to America. Where he met his idol, Art Blakey. And more unbelievably, played in the group that he used to hear over Voice Of America.

Some of those experiences are reflected in The Messenger as Ponomarev gives names and musical description to some of his experiences.

“Escape From Gorky Park” symbolizes his flight from Russia, the repression of his music more than he could stand. Playing in fits and starts and then breaking into a run, Ponomarev’s fleeing eventually results in freedom at the end of the tune. The minor-keyed “Dark Alley” wordlessly describes the fearsome walk in the shadows at night (again reminiscent of the poorly lit alleys of Moscow—I’ve seen them). And “Driving To A Gig II,” with its 3/4 sway, refers to Ponomarev’s thoughts as he hurries along the interstate highway to a club, his ideas coming from nowhere and taking shape along the way.

But then he relaxes on “Stardust,” paying tribute to the succession of trumpet players who have performed the famous tune, including Ponomarev’s idol, Clifford Brown.

Once again, Ponomarev is backed by an exceptional group. Michael Karn’s deep tone is entirely reminiscent of the same richness of Ralph Moore’s or Bob Berg’s, earlier Universal Language musicians. Sid Simmons brings a harmonic depth to the tracks, elaborating on the implications of the horns’ work instead of resulting to unimaginative comping. And then there’s Jimmy Cobb, one of the most famous drummers in all of jazz, providing the feel for the tunes that magnetizes the group toward the rhythmic center.

Solidly within hard-bop territory, Valery Ponomarev nevertheless personalizes the work on The Messenger, as he always has, to allow the listener a glimpse into the events that made him into one of the most interesting, and most under-recognized, trumpeters in jazz.

http://www.reservoirmusic.com

Track Listing: Driving To A Gig II, Messenger From Russia, Long Distance Relationship, Escape From Gorky Park, Dark Alley, Star Dust, Mirage

Personnel: Valery Ponomarev, trumpet; Michael Karn, tenor sax; Sid Simmons, piano; Martin Zenker, bass; Jimmy Cobb, drums

Title: The Messenger | Year Released: 2001 | Record Label: Reservoir Music

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

CD/LP/Track Review
Book Reviews
CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
Beyond The Obvious

Beyond The Obvious

Reservoir Music
2006

buy
 

The Messenger

Reservoir Music
2001

buy
 

Profile

Reservoir
1991

buy
 

Means Of...

Reservoir
1987

buy

Related Articles

Read You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To CD/LP/Track Review
You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: February 24, 2018
Read We Out Here CD/LP/Track Review
We Out Here
by Chris May
Published: February 24, 2018
Read Best of the Bootlegs 2017 CD/LP/Track Review
Best of the Bootlegs 2017
by Doug Collette
Published: February 24, 2018
Read The Asylum Years CD/LP/Track Review
The Asylum Years
by Doug Collette
Published: February 24, 2018
Read Solo Contra CD/LP/Track Review
Solo Contra
by Daniel Barbiero
Published: February 24, 2018
Read Ellipse CD/LP/Track Review
Ellipse
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: February 23, 2018
Read "Common Ground" CD/LP/Track Review Common Ground
by Matthew Aquiline
Published: September 17, 2017
Read "Think Ahead" CD/LP/Track Review Think Ahead
by Geannine Reid
Published: June 2, 2017
Read "Leap of Faith Orchestra - Possible Universes" CD/LP/Track Review Leap of Faith Orchestra - Possible Universes
by Karl Ackermann
Published: July 1, 2017
Read "Bright Lights & Promises: Redefining Janis Ian" CD/LP/Track Review Bright Lights & Promises: Redefining Janis Ian
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: April 14, 2017
Read "Silhouettes" CD/LP/Track Review Silhouettes
by Roger Farbey
Published: May 14, 2017
Read "Araminta" CD/LP/Track Review Araminta
by Mark F. Turner
Published: October 4, 2017