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Ambrose Akinmusire

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Ambrose Akinmusire


New Trumpet Talent

Ambrose Akinmusire’s Blue Note Debut


Sunday, April 3, 2011

WHAT’S NEW DEPT.: In the jazz world this week, a star is born. Okay, we dramatize for effect in some modest measure, but the official release of young trumpet dynamo Ambrose Akinmusire’s Blue Note debut last Tuesday marked the first real blast of major new action in the jazz year thus far. Called When the Heart Emerges Glistening, Akinmusire’s new album elicits considerable and deserved excitement in jazz, where diminishing opportunities for the younger generation of bold young musicians with something to say (and there are many of them out there) makes a gleaming new arrival something extra special.

And you can hear that something extra special in many ways: in the assurance combined with a taste for exploration in Akinmusire’s playing, in his strengths as a writer and bandleader, and in his distinctive way of cutting across the general trends of jazz trumpeters as either blowers or brooders. He’s both. After touring with Steve Coleman when still a teenager and gaining wisdom from such “elders” as piano great Jason Moran (also the new album’s producer), plus making his tentative debut recording Prelude … to Cora (Fresh Sound New Talent)—dedicated to his beloved and inspirational mother, Cora Campbell—Akinmusire has made more than good on his first major label foray.

I first heard Akinmusire at the 2009 Monterey Jazz Festival through a semi-accidental encounter, dripping in a certain “Eureka!” sensation. Although I had heard some buzz about this new young sensation, I had forgotten he was on the program. My ear caught wind of a trumpeter in the periphery on one of the side stages of the Fairground jazz compound. A sense of discovery tingled within upon drifting into the room and witnessing the energy and poise on stage, both in the leader’s powerful playing and the smart groupthink onstage, with Gerald Wilson at piano, Walter Smith III on tenor sax, drummer Justin Brown, and bassist Harish Rahavan.

Capital-D Discovery continues with his Blue Note debut, and the international touring schedule following on its heels. We might think that his act of making “What’s New” the only standard on the otherwise original-filled album a brash statement, except that it’s one of the more understated and beautiful slow pieces in the set. In effect, with this album, he is not making the statement “This is what’s new!” but rather saying this is “what’s new” and then asking, “What’s to come?” In fact, much of the album’s musical fabric remains in the realm of coolness, starting with the opener, “Confessions to my Unborn Daughter,” and including two short tributes to his mother, “Ayneh (Cora).” More fiery play is in the works, on tracks like “Far but Few Between” and “The Walls of Lechuigilla,” charged with some Steve Coleman-esque ensemble powerhousing. It’s a happy day for jazz.

TETZLAFF RETURNS: When German violinist Christian Tetzlaff hit the Lobero stage in 2008, bearing only his instrument and a stunning, deeply felt way with Bach’s unaccompanied violin music, it was one of the more memorable classical events at the Lobero in recent years (and there have been many, including last week’s profound performance by classical guitarist Paul Galbraith in that blessed room). Tetzlaff returns to the Lobero on Tuesday, with the family crest in the picture. The esteemed Tetzlaff Quartet, featuring Christian and his cellist sister, Tanja, will give a repeat of the program they did at Carnegie Hall. On the program, they’ll give us old standbys, from Haydn and Mendelssohn, but also the lesser-traveled repertoire of Arnold Schoenberg, and his both soothing and challenging String Quartet No. 1, also heard on the Tetzlaff Quartet’s wondrous new CD.

GOING OUT THERE: Anyone with an interest in experimental, computer or otherwise “outside” instinctual music should make the trek to Lotte Lehmann Concert Hall, to witness the magic of organic British experimentalist Kaffe Matthews this Thursday, April 7, at 8 p.m. As part of the current Primavera Festival at UCSB, Matthews will give a solo performance, in a return engagement to the venue she played in 2008 (on the night of the Tea Fire, incidentally).

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