New visions and colorful dreams emanate from the horn and pen of trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire. You would expect the first place winner of the 2007 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Trumpet Competition to come out with his horn a-blazing, voraciously showing his chops. While he does have the honored award and sharpened abilities, his debut recording, Prelude: to Cora, is one that walks quietly yet carries a huge stick of inspiring, focused and enlightened music that is well beyond his youthful expectations.
Trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire is a forward-thinking musician with a bent toward atmospheric post-bop. Born in Oakland, California, Akinmusire showed early promise by his teens and gigged professionally while also playing in the Berkeley High School Jazz Ensemble. Early encounters with such luminaries as saxophonists Joe Henderson and Steve Coleman pushed Akinmusire to focus a keen eye on his own development.
Wolfgang Muthspiel – whom The New Yorker has called “a shining light” among today’s jazz guitarists – made his ECM leader debut in 2014 with the trio disc Driftwood, featuring him alongside two longtime colleagues, bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Brian Blade. For his follow-up – Rising Grace – the Austrian guitarist has convened a very special quintet, adding jazz luminary Brad Mehldau on piano and the outstanding young trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire to the subtly virtuosic Grenadier/Blade rhythm section.
Thirty years after the death of Thelonious Monk, his music seems more of an enigmatic fortress than ever. Perched on the summit of a solitary peak its complex architecture swarms with lavish rooms, bone-dry staircases, unrestricted vistas and treacherous dungeons. The light-switches are halfway down the hall, the bath is in the middle of the bedroom, the toilets in the kitchen, and sometimes all the light-bulbs shine with a pale blue light, while dishes break on their own. Many have tried to live inside Monk's music, and all of them have felt the irregular narrowness of its walls, the continual slope of its flooring; you have to rely on an innate sense of balance and direction if you want to spend some time inside. And yet this is exactly the exploit which Pierrick Pédron has accomplished.
Superb trumpeter Tom Harrell, who has been releasing recordings as a leader since 1989, has a new album out, Something Gold, Something Blue, on HighNote featuring fellow trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, as well as guitarist Charles Altura, bassist Ugonna Okegwo and drummer Johnathan Blake. Harrell is a prolific arranger and composer and a mysterious yet mesmerizing presence in concert and a regular in the recording studio. His resume is impressive, with contributions to bands led by Stan Kenton, Horace Silver and Joe Lovano. He has written scores for ballets and arrangements for symphony orchestras and his last HighNote album “First Impressions” (HCD 7276) was in the Top Ten Best Jazz albums of 2015 in the 64th Annual Downbeat Critic's Poll while Akinmusire and Harrell took the top two slots in the trumpet category in the same poll.