Throughout the history of jazz, the headline trumpet players have been known for muscular solos and chops. Ambrose Akinmusire challenges the status quo, setting a paradigm shift to depend more on poetic nuance, as he displayed during his 110 minute concert with his quartet on a steamy Friday night at the Moss Theatre.
Fresh from recording his newest release A Rift In Decorum with his long-time teammates Sam Harris/p, Harish Raghavan/b and Justin Brown/dr, Akinmusire opened the evening with a soft and delicate solo intro to “Maurice & Michael” that included fragile sighs and cries, as Harris deftly entered through the side door with elegiac reflections and abstractions. Raghaven and Williams supplied a marching cadence that was both militaristic and restlessly free, with a rich climactic wave that slowly receded like the foam of a wave towards the closing of the tune.
During “Maurice and Michael”Akinmusire’s horn delivered a rich cadenza that felt like a Latin baroque movement, with Harris supplying keyboard strokes for an ethereal and dreamy landscape. The two intertwined, subtly relaying back and forth as Williams’ scurrying sticks slowly increasing the butane level, creating a paradoxical abstract deep pocket.
Harris delivered somber piano chords for the intro to the nocturnal piece that followed, with Akinmusire floating above the misty haze, alternating with long tones, half tones and even sub tones that swooped down like a pelican for its prey. The deep visceral notes were held long enough to drown a lesser man, finally gasping for air with the piece drifting to a dainty emphysematous close.
For a special treat, alto saxist David Binney joined the band for a couple free spirited pieces. The contrast of Binney’s ascerbic tone that seared through the torrid rhythms contrasted gloriously with Akinmusire’s mix of bel canto and verissimo. Binney cut through the melody like a Popeil Pocketknife before changing moods for a mournful piece that had the two horns cry out like Pagliacci before Harris ended by blowing out the last musical candle.
Back to the quartet, Akinmusire closed the evening with more fresh material. “Moment in Between the Rest” had the trumpet float and deliver a perfect three point landing, while the final piece, the assertive “Umteyo” rose like volcanic ash before creating an avalanche that was powerful enough to block PCH.
Before the last tune, Akinmusire confessed “this band keeps me going.” After a display of such talent, it seems like the leader himself is keeping jazz going…forward.
Upcoming shows include Buster Williams June 24, Pat Martino July 8 and Alan Broadbent Aug 16