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Victor Haskins: The Truth

Nicholas F. Mondello By

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Many years ago, there was a radio then television show called "Truth or Consequences." The premise was rather sophomoric: contestants were asked trivia questions and, if they failed to answer correctly, they were "buzzed off" and subsequently given goofy "tasks" which usually resulted in laughs at the contestant's expense. With The Truth the consequences for Richmond-based—but internationally recognized—trumpeter, Victor Haskins will be anything but embarrassing.

The youthful Haskins leads his ace quintet through seven of his highly original and very mature compositions. Each cut is a man-made gem of great writing, superior musicianship, and just all-around emotional and rhythmic drive. The repertoire covers a wide spectrum ranging from straight-ahead jazz, bossa-inflected melody with frantic (the oddly-titled "Stasis") and fluid tempos and polyrhythmic and occasional free jazz underpinnings. The musical variety show here works beautifully.

As trumpeter, Haskins possesses marvelous chops, great technical ability, savvy horn-sense and a flowing ease of execution that allows him to explore exciting, rhythmically unique improvised lines that hint of Woody Shaw. His trumpet sound is full, resonant and highly attractive across the range of horn ("Morning"). Haskins' improvised lines are filled with "flow-juice" and they spark rhythmic nuggets which he quickly and effectively develops. His dialogs with fine alto saxophonist, Luis Hernandez are extraordinary ("The Thought That Counts"). Hernandez himself sets fly as an ace swinger on "Stasis" and elsewhere on the date. This is an ensemble that buys in to the game at hand.

The Truth is an effort that has an extraordinary degree of rhythmic pace and diversity—even within the selections ("Winter Winds"). That places significant weight on the rhythm section and they respond well to the assignment. Keyboardist Steve Kessler's chordal support and solos are superb and his occasional use of synth adds nicely to the album's texture and creative flair. Bassist Tom Baldwin ("Grey") and drummer Tony Martucci excel throughout, pushing and pulling the rhythmic wagon train and whipping up even more interest.

While "Truth or Consequences" may or may not have had a live audience to witness and applaud its on-stage shenanigans, The Truth certainly offers listeners' ears some marvelously unique and most refreshing fare. No gags or gongs here. "Beulah, the Buzzer" will simply have to find another patsy.

Track Listing: Smiling with the Sun; The Thought that Counts; Winter Winds; Stasis; Morning; Nightmare Within a Dream; Grey.

Personnel: Victor Haskins: trumpet; Luis Hernandez: alto saxophone; Steve Kessler: piano/keyboards; Tom Baldwin: bass; Tony Martucci: drums.

Title: The Truth | Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: 32bar Music

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