CD reviews

Ambrose Akinmusire – “on the tender spot of every calloused moment”

Ambrose Akinmusire – on the tender spot of every calloused moment
(Blue Note 0892619. Download review by Patrick Hadfield)

Ambrose AkinmusireAmbrose Akinmusire makes music that seems full of contradictions and yet is whole, consistent and coherent. There are passages of apparent free improvisation which feel deeply rooted in jazz tradition. There are moments of innocence balanced with music that feels politically charged.

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There are also passages of great beauty. Working with his long standing collaborators – pianist Sam Harris, bassist Harish Raghavan and Justin Brown on drums – Akinmusire gives them the freedom to create: the quartet seem well attuned to each other.

The long opening piece, Tide of Hyacinth, embodies many of the different moods on the record, moving from one form to another, almost like a suite. It has free improvisation and invention, rhythmic drive, strong melodic lines. The band has a full sound that makes them sound larger than a quartet. They are joined in one section by Jesus Diaz singing in Yoruba, providing a link that goes back a lot further than the birth of jazz.

There are also vocals on Cynical sideliners, this time provided by Genevieve Artadi. The tune has a simple innocence, Artadi accompanied by Akinmusire playing Fender Rhodes piano. He also played Fender Rhodes, unaccompanied, on the closing track, Hooded procession (read the names outloud). The names aren’t read out loud, but you know they’re there as Akinmusire slowly and poignantly plays the chords. It is perhaps the quietest track on the album, but perhaps it speaks most loudly, too.

Akinmusire’s writing is particularly powerful on the slower numbers. reset (quiet victories&celebrated defeats) leaves lots of space for Akinmusire’s thoughtful trumpet, the other members of the quartet simply marking time with the underlying chords. Roy, dedicated to the late Roy Hargrove, has a wistful sense of loss played out as both a spiritual-gospel and a New Orleans slow funeral march.

But the freer pieces also pack a punch. Much of Blues (We measure the heart with a fist) has the trumpet accompanied by bass and drums, the space where the piano might have been adding to the depth of Akinmusire’s solo.

on the tender spot of every calloused moment is Akinmusire’s fifth album for Blue Note in nine years. It is full of contrasts, exciting and emotional by turn.

Patrick Hadfield lives in Edinburgh, occasionally takes photographs, and sometimes blogs at On the Beat. Twitter: @patrickhadfield.

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