Every now and then a musician gets bold and breaks the mold. Cindy Bradley's Unscripted is the sound of an artist just going for it. The nearly eight-minute "Prelude/Massive Transit/Interlude" suite that kicks off the album is like a rush of cool air to the face on a hot summer day. It's fast, furious and funky, with Bradley blowing the hell out of her trumpet as she dukes it out with producer Michael Broening's keyboards and Tim Veder's sax solos.
Don't be confused, though. "Massive Transit" is smooth jazz, but it's still a bit more ambitious than an ordinary bit of funk. It builds upon itself and keeps going with one hard groove after another, goosed along by Broening's horn arrangement and a bass line by Ernie Donadelle that is irresistibly compelling.
Next up is an impressive take on Wayne Shorter's "Footprints" and a gorgeously lush version of "You Don't Know What Love Is." Bradley interjects some moody blues soloing over Broening's arrangements, as they do not try so much to interpret the originals slavishly note for note as to pay homage to two familiar tunes.
The first half of Unscripted is so strong that the middle sags a little, as "Lifted" sounds pretty, but breaks no new ground. If "Deja Blue," and "Pink Slip" are a bit more familiar, they also give Bradley a chance to show off her trombone chops. The final three selections"Inevitable," "Interlude" and the resplendent "One Moment More"bring a satisfying close to Bradley's sophomore effort and will continue to make her one of the most respected artists in contemporary jazz genre.
Bradley's confidence as a player is apparent on every track of Unscripted. On the previous Bloom (Trippin' n' Rhythm, 2009), she hung back and deferred to Broening and the other musicians as though she was following their lead. That's over now, as she delivers fully accomplished, award-winning music. Bradley was named the Best New Artist at the 2010 American Contemporary Jazz Awards, and followed that up with two Oasis Awards, for Best Brass Player and Best New Artist.
The title is slightly misleading. There may not have been a script for Unscripted, but there is definitely a plan and Bradley is executing it to perfection. This is a highly rewarding sophomore effort from Bradley and establishes her as someone on the short list of jazz artists well worth following to see what comes next.
Prelude; Massive Transit; Interlude; Footprints; You Don't Know What Love Is; Lifted; A New Day; Interlude; Deja Blue; Pink Slip; Inevitable; Interlude; One Moment More.