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Bebop Spoken There

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11,783 (and counting) posts since we started blogging 12 years ago. 1023 of them this year alone and, so far, 50 this month (Sept. 17).

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SATURDAY

Happy Birthday Katy Trigger & Mia Webb.

SUNDAY 20

Vieux Carre Hot 4 - Spanish City, Spanish City Plaza, Whitley Bay NE26 1BG. Tel: 0191 691 7090. 12 noon. Free.

Riviera Quartet - The Globe, 11 Railway St., Newcastle NE4 7AD. 8:00pm. A limited number of seats are available which MUST be bought in advance online. £7:50 or £5:45 live stream only.

THURSDAY 24

Vieux Carre Jazzmen - The Holystone, Whitley Road, North Tyneside NE27 0DA. 0191 266 6173. 1:00pm. Free.

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Sunday, May 24, 2020

Album Review: Ambrose Akinmusire - On the Tender Spot of Every Calloused Moment

Ambrose Akinmusire (trumpet), Sam Harris (pianist), Harish Raghavan (bass), Justin Brown (drums)
(Review by Chris K)

The fifth Blue Note recording from this young (38) Californian, already feted as the trumpet player of his generation. 

What does it take to be anointed as the leading contemporary player in the 2020s? 

Expect startling technique, raw power, modern relevance and political messages: after all he played on Kendrick’s To Pimp a Butterfly and has torn it up with Kamasi Washington.  So, is he a “West Coast Get Down” version of his close contemporary, New Orleans born Christian Scott?  Scott is a top player with distinctive style and agenda, but Akinmusire has extra gears. In addition to high energy hip hop, post-bop and free experimental blasts, he also draws oblique lines through the ethereal spaces opened up by Kenny Wheeler and mapped out by the European School. 

As long ago as 2012, our editor-in-chief salivated  “such is the beauty of his tone that tenderness abounds with each note he plays”. This is also evident in his contribution to the excellent ECM 2018 Where the River Goes from the guitarist Wolfgang Muthspiel, where I think he simply steals the show from the leader with playing of staggering beauty and sophistication.

His latest album, eleven of his own varied compositions, on the tender spot of every calloused moment is centered on the powerful and political face of his activity, examining the modern African-American experience and evaluating what the blues means in 2020. This is often uncompromising and intense modern music, carried off with confidence and serious chops by a first rate band, all making distinctive contributions.  But there are many beautiful and introspective episodes too, most notably the blues ballad Roy, a moving tribute to the late Roy Hargrove.

Breathy and swirling trumpet kicks off the opening track (the longest at 8 mins),  Tide of Hyacinth,  before a tumult of drums and bass gives way to a helter-skelter of interlocking piano and trumpet. Justin Brown’s tempestuous drumming is a revelation here and throughout. Even when flat out, though, he and Raghavan on bass lock in to hold it all together in an exhilarating but tight trajectory, with Akinmusire flying fierce and free on top. The track peaks with a startling proclamatory vocal in Yoruba by Cuban guest singer Jesus Diaz.

The second track, Yessss, is much slower, starting with arco bass, building to a masterpiece of trumpet improvisation over a complex brew, where Sam Harris on piano combines telepathically. The high register of the trumpet is unleashed here to sublime effect, never losing sight of musicality.

Cynical Sideliners is a lovely 2 minute interlude featuring the fresh voice of Genevieve Artadi with sensitive keyboard accompaniment, followed by the more avant-garde and time-stretching Mr. Roscoe (consider the simultaneous), named for Roscoe Mitchell of The Art Ensemble of Chicago.

An Interlude (that get’ more intense) does what it says on the tin - portentous plucked bass,  building with roiling drums through to a full on romp. Even at full tilt though, tunes are evident, shining through the maelstrom. Another standout is reset (quiet victories&celebrated defeats),  with a pure, high and heartbreaking trumpet line gliding over skittering percussion and  punctuating bass.

Akinmusire’s compositional style is very varied here, so Blues (We measure the heart with a fist) indulges in spaced out conversations,  and effects on trumpet and piano,  before gradually growing into a “post-modern blues”.  The album closes with a thoughtful Fender Rhodes reflection, Hooded Procession (read the names outloud).

The top track though is Roy, and the album is worth it just for this. Reverend, spine tingling, bluesy and above all exquisite ensemble playing.  This should be on every music syllabus everywhere!

As Archie Shepp, no less, said earlier this year, “This is the Cat!”

Wholeheartedly recommended: an exciting album, brimming with ideas, building up a serious catalogue of composition and playing for the remarkable Akinmusire.
Chris Kilsby

Released June 5 on CD and digital formats with a vinyl release to follow on August 28.
 Scheduled for the Jazz Café (London) Jan 14.

1 comment :

Russell said...

A most positive review. The line-up appeared at the 2012 Gateshead International Jazz Festival (Walter Smith III was also with Akinmuire at Sage Gateshead) and two years earlier (January 2010) AA was in John Escreet's band in Sage's Northern Rock Foundation Hall. The band included David Binney, Matt Brewer and Nasheet Waits!

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