Friday, August 5, 2016

Walter Simonsen: This is Trumpetology

Simonsen Sounds
By Ric Bang
Buy CD: This Is Trumpetology

This album is quite different than any I’ve encountered thus far. It features a brass section of half a dozen trumpets, supported by a rhythm section of piano, bass and drums. 

The selections are jazz standards that have been featured, and often composed, by trumpet artists such as Miles Davis, Lee Morgan, Dizzy Gillespie, Clifford Brown, Freddie Hubbard and Kenny Dorham. The menu features “Autumn Leaves,” “Milestones,” “Sidewinder,” “Anthropology,” “Blues Walk,” “Skydive,” “Prince Albert,” “So What,” “Unit 7,” “Summertime” and “I Wish.” (Longtime jazz fans should have no trouble associating each tune with its featured musician.)

The ensemble is headed by Walter Simonsen, who plays trumpet/flugelhorn and is a composer, arranger, conductor and educator at the University of Southern California. The brass section consists of students who are artists and educators in their own right: James Blackwell, Tim Gill, Brian Mantz, Brian Owen and Cameron Summers.

Two rhythm sections are utilized: pianist Adam Bravo, bassist Alex Frank, and drummer Adam Alesi on three tracks; and pianist Kait Dunton, bassist Cooper Appelt, and drummer Jake Reed on the other eight. Simonsen arranged each chart, and the liner notes identify the featured soloists.

A unified trumpet section can be fantastic; remember the GRP Big Band’s choruses on  “Cherokee”? Well, the section work here is technically equal, and the individual solos are great. I have only one caveat, which I’ll call an absence of “looseness.” There isn’t a fluff anywhere, but that makes these performances almost too perfect. A metronome keeps perfect time, but it doesn’t swing; these artists would be better swingers if they’d relax a bit.

That aside, this is a fine, fine album.

No comments: