It’s been quite some time since Russian trumpeter Valery Ponomarev defected from his native land in order to play jazz in America. Landing a gig with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers almost immediately, Ponomarev has gone on to practice the jazz tradition while being documented on a distinguished series of dates for the Reservoir label. Clearly, the affection that Ponomarev has for Blakey is still palpable owing to the title of his latest endeavor. The Messenger is indeed hard bop in the grand style and yet that tart Russian tinge that distinguishes the trumpeter’s sound is ever present, giving his originals a worldly stance all their own.
Ponomarev definitely could not ask for better company. Tenor saxophonist Michael Karn has his own individualized line of attack, more in tune with mainstream guys like Buddy Tate and Bud Freeman than Coltrane or Rollins. Pianist Sid Simmons is one of Philadelphia’s finest and drummer Jimmy Cobb really needs no introduction at all. With a concise set of diverse tunes and Jim Anderson’s crisp recorded sound, you end up with 50 minutes of high octane playing that not only treads new ground but also spreads the message of the elders.
Track Listing: Driving To a Gig II, Messenger From Russia, Long Distance Relationship, Escape From Gorki Park, Dark Alley, Star Dust, Mirage
Personnel: Valery Ponomarev (trumpet), Michael Karn (tenor saxophone), Sid Simmons (piano), Martin Zenker (bass), Jimmy Cobb (drums)