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Trumpeter Ryan Kisor is only 25 but The Usual Suspects is already his fourth album as a leader. He's paid his dues with the Mingus Big Band, the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, Pat Metheny and Gerry Mulligan and he holds his own with other such so-called young lions as Wallace Roney, Roy Hargrove and Nicholas Payton. But for his estimable talents, he's a bit too devoted to the sounds of the past.
Despite its solid, straight-ahead swing, the "usual suspects" of the title are Blue Note trumpet stars Freddie Hubbard, Donald Byrd and, most especially, Lee Morgan. Kisor's clean phrasing and well-thought patterns add a more contemporary polish, though, and he boasts a sound that matches his good looks: romantic, intelligent and sophisticated; a sort of GQ jazz.
Kisor breezes easily through the familiar Blue Note style program of catchy post-bop ("The Usual Suspects," "Hoofin"), swinging waltz themes ("Sheeryn's Waltz") and romantic standards ("Never Let Me Go," "I've Never Been In Love Before"). His rhythm section includes Peter Zak (equal parts Wynton Kelly, Herbie Hancock and Harold Mabern), the worth-watching Fable Records house bassist John Webber and young drummer Willie Jones III.
They sound tight with each other, comfortable with their program and producer Don Mikkelsen's sterling production captures it beautifully. Alfred Lion would probably have had these four loosen their ties and play in the dirt a little more. But Ryan Kisor can probably do whatever he wants and still sound good. The Usual Suspects sounds pretty good too, but it promises even more.
Track Listing: The Usual Suspects; Sheeryn's Waltz; Nobody Else But Me; M.H.D.; Never Let Me Go; Hoofin' Below The Rim; I've Never Been In Love Before.
Personnel: Ryan Kisor: trumpet; Peter Zak: piano; John Webber: bass; Willie Jones III: drums.