Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Ambrose Akinmusire: When The Heart Emerges Glistening

Ambrose Akinmusire (trumpet)
When The Heart Emerges Glistening (Blue Note; 2011)
Walter Smith III (sax)
Harrish Raghavan (bass)
Gerald Clayton (piano)
Justin Brown (drummer)
Jason Moran (piano)

Like last year when I was blown away by new records from Gerald Clayton, Christian Scott and Esperanza Spalding after avoiding the hype machine, I come to that moment again. I was actually already impressed with Ambrose Akinmusire's work with David Binney, John Escreet and Steve Coleman. I have been unable to find his debut album, Prelude (Fresh Sound/New Talent; 2007), but I'm still gobsmacked at the strikingly exuberant second album, When The Heart Emerges Glistening (Blue Note).

Akinmusire has been on the scene only a short time but the musicians he has already performed with along with the growing maturity in his writing is sure to make an impact on listeners this year. Surrounding himself with a cast of musicians he has worked with already over the years makes the album a cohesive and exciting venture from start to finish.

Opening up with "Confessions To My Unborn Daughter", Akinsmusire sets the tone that he is willing to make bold statements and even bolder performances all with beauty and skill that might be beyond his years. There's an energy on this opener that both encompasses the fierceness of Clifford Brown and the modern styling of Terence Blanchard. The exchanges between Smith and Akinmusire are tight and intense. But they underscore the longstanding relationship two have had for some time now. Brown's pulsating timing adds another laying of urgency to the piece that illustrates the quintets effort to make every piece important.

"Hyena" is a midtempo piece but still holds a fresh bold consolidation in structure. Akinmusire allows guest pianist, Jason Moran (on fender rhodes here) to take some of the lead here but moves quietly in and out of the foreground. There's a heavy tone in Akinmusire's voice on "Hyena" that made me feel a lot more emotional than usual when listening to ballad. The performance cuts right into you. I loved that.

While ferocious may be an adjective for describing Akinmusire's overall tone, he manages to demonstrate a real sense of beauty on a number of pieces."Regret (No More)" is one of those numbers in which I sometimes get reminded of Terence Blanchard. It's the soft touches and long notes that feel cinematic in nature but provide a lush beauty that stretches long after the piece as concluded.

"What's New", the lone standard on When The Heart..., shows Akinmusire's more contemporary side. A lovely duet with Clayton, where the trumpeter reflects on what appears to be one of his mentors, Clifford Brown. It's a wonderful piece and shows a much more relaxed nature for Clayton as well. The two tenderly play off one another and it's a standout for both musicians. It's a touch of tradition but performed with modern respect and reflection.

When The Heart Emerges Glistening is shinning achievement from an artist that will be on the scene for years to come and his presence might change jazz in the years to come. Definitely a future voice to be heard by everyone...

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