Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Solo Trumpeter

Hard to believe it's 16 years since Ambrose Akinmusire won the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition. That same year, he won the Carmine Caruso International Jazz Trumpet Solo Competition plus his debut album on Fresh Sound. In 2011, Akinmusire signed to Blue Note Records where he released five albums as a leader one as a member of the Blue Note All Stars. He's been a frequent guest artist appearing on albums by Jen Shyu, Me'shell Ndegeocello, guitarist Wolfgang Muthspiel and Mary Halvorson, Jack DeJohnette, and many more. He's also has collaborated with Australian composer Michael Yezerski for two seasons on the soundtrack of the STARZ series "Blindspotting".  Earlier this month, Akinmusire was named the Artistic Director for the incoming class of 2025 of the Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz (formerly the Monk Institute) in Los Angeles, CA. 

Now, Ambrose Akinmusire is launching his own label, Origami Harvest. The first release is also Akinmusire's first solo album.  Titled "Beauty Is Enough", the 16 tracks were recorded in Paris inside the Church of St. Eustache (pictured below)––the trumpeter rented space within the building bringing sound engineer Julien Bassères along to capture the improvisations.  In an excellent interview with Nate Chinen for his SubStack blog, "The Gig", Akinmusire said "You know, the idea started from talking to Wadada and Roscoe, and them talking about the importance of having a solo record". (Sign up for "The Gig" as it is now Mr. Chinen's main vehicle for writing).  There's certainly a precedent for this album as there are numerous Creative Music solo trumpet albums including several excellent TUM releases by Wadada Leo Smith.  

As stated above, there are 16 tracks clocking in at just under 50 minutes. Only two are over four-minutes long and all are absorbing.  Solo albums tell a story––few of them are created to highlight technical brilliance––and "Beauty Is Enough" is filled with dedications, memories, and dreams.  Listener sit down, start on track one ("To Taymoor"), pay attention to the intimacy of the sound (and the resonance within the building), to how Akinmusire builds the piece up from the opening tones to a gentle melody, and the softness of his attack.  Other "dedication songs" include "Carvin" (for drummer Michael Carvin), "To Shabnam", and "To Cora Campbell" which closes the recording.  There are others tracks with names attached but also tracks such as the playful "Off the Ledge" (feels like madcap romp based on "Reveille") and "Achilles" which, to these ears, sounds like a chase scene in a cartoon.

Over the course of his career, Ambrose Akinmusire has made us listen to the power in his music, to his responses to the world around him that he translates into sounds and images. "Beauty Is Enough" feels more like a launching pad for future adventures than a summing up of where the trumpeter has already been. Listen and judge for yourself but do listen with an open mind.  

For more information and to purchase the recording, go to https://ambroseakinmusire.bandcamp.com/album/beauty-is-enough.  For the trumpeter's history, go to www.ambroseakinmusire.com/.  

Hear "Launchpad":

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