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Russell Gunn: Young Gunn Plus

Douglas Payne By

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This solid and engaging mainstream debut was first issued on Muse Records in 1995 when trumpeter Russell Gunn was 24 years old. That disc didn't attract much attention and Gunn went on to work with Wynton ( Blood on the Fields ) and Brandford Marsalis ( Buckshot LeFonque ) then followed up his debut with last year's Gunn Fu (HighNote). But the wise folks at 32 Jazz thought Young Gunn deserved another chance.

Much will probably be made of the fact that Gunn attended the same St. Louis high school as Miles Davis and has the late trumpeter's sixties quintet sound down cold. But as much as such comparisons reigned and dogged Wynton Marsalis early in his career, Gunn deserves more. He's a clean, clear-toned player with a greater facility than Davis possessed. He also swings outside the box more easily than Wynton. But he shares Miles and Wynton's fondness and abilities for the romantic (his tone on trumpet suggests the warmer flugelhorn sound). Best of all, unlike so many players of his generation, Gunn does not dazzle with boring technique or wasted notes. His restraint is more suggestive and appealing.

Gunn is heard in two strong quintets, one featuring John Hicks' piano and Sam Newsome's Shorter-like tenor and the other featuring Branford Marsalis. The 72-minute program, enhanced by three first-rate, formerly unreleased songs, is mostly modal – alternating ballads with mid-tempo workouts. Gunn's six originals all have something good to say ("The Beeach," "Bronwyn" and "East St. Louis" especially). But it's the better known pieces ("Wade in the Water" and "You Don't Know What Love Is") where the trumpeter's skills really shine. A curious modal rap tune is a throwaway – but still manages to fit the bill.

It's too early to tell if Russell Gunn will set the world on fire. But Young Gunn Plus indicates this is the start of something interesting.

Tracks:East St. Louis; Fly Me To The Moon Wade In The Water; D.J.; You Don't Know What Love Is; The Concept; The Message; There Is No Greater Love; Blue Gene; Pannonica; The Beeach; Bronwyn; Ginger Bread Boy.Collective

Personnel:

Collective Russell Gunn: trumpet; Sam Newsome, Branford Marsalis: tenor sax; John Hicks, James Hurt: piano; Peter Washington, Eric Revis: bass; Cecil Brooks III, Ali Jackson: drums; Chef Word (Derek Washington): rap on "The Concept."

Title: Young Gunn Plus | Year Released: 1998 | Record Label: 32 Records


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