Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Ambrose Akinmusire - A Rift In Decorum: Live At The Village Vanguard (Blue Note, 2017)

Trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire is a well regarded musician on the modern mainstream jazz scene. He has been patient in building his craft, recording sparingly and not jumping into fads or judgement. To record a live album at the Village Vanguard is a daunting task, since it is the club where John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins among many others recorded some of their finest material. Like those men, he is the sole horn in this band, but he is buoyed by this group that features Sam Harris on piano, Harish Raghavan on bass and Justin Brown on drums. "Maurice and Michael (Sorry I Didn't Say Hello)" is an interesting way to open the album, showing a thoughtful sense of social consciousness, and allowing the music to speak for him, developing from a spare and well paced beginning to a more active section for full band improvisation and the leader's solo. Akinmusire has a nice tone to his instrument, often thoughtful and meditative, but willing to be brash and loud if the music calls for it. The more open ended nature of the music allows the band to weave complex textures on "Brooklyn (ODB)" where tight communication and deep listening are critical to the execution of the music. It is another lengthy performance that begins deceptively slowly and quietly with spare piano. Harris takes this opportunity and runs with it, developing a faster and more frenetic pace that opens up the music for the remaining band members. The leader plays long tones of brass over the sound, making for an inviting creative atmosphere. The music resolves about four minutes into more conventional rhythm section with trumpet. Akinmusire's solo statement is powerful and self assured, pushing through the air around him, and taking full control of the situation. You hear muted blast of trumpet, but also low register growling as he makes the most of the possibilities inherent his instrument, before the group comes back for a strong conclusion. One of the lengthiest pieces on the album, "Trumpet Sketch (Milky Pete)" opens with a soft solo statement on trumpet, carefully placing the notes as if he were displaying artworks in a gallery. The rest of the group jumps in after a few minutes, demonstrating their ability to create in real time, taking an idea introduced by one of the members and and using it to craft a memorable performance. Akinmusire pushes the band forward nicely with some very well articulated trumpet plating, and they rhythm section obliges, taking a fine trio feature and further developing interesting rhythmic ideas. They are very impressive in nudging the tempo even faster with Harris romping over the keyboard, and the bass and drums giving chase. The trumpet re-enters, improvising over subtle percussion and bass, playing tightly never sounding forced or heavy handed. Akinmusire develops a trumpet / percussion dynamic is excellent and they really challenge each other as supercharged trumpet phrases and lashing drums arise in an appealing go for broke improvisation, recalling done of the famous horn and drums battles of the Vanguard's past, and giving the music an edgy character that makes it one of the highlights of this very solid collection of live modern jazz. A Rift In Decorum: Live At The Village Vanguard -

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