CD review

James Copus – “Dusk”

James Copus – Dusk
(Ubuntu Music UBU0058. CD review by Mark McKergow)

At just 25 years of age, trumpeter James Copus has rapidly been making a name for himself on the London jazz scene. A graduate from the Royal Academy of Music, Copus has been spotted both playing jazz in all the right places and also as a first-call session trumpeter on tour and in the studio with the likes of Jacob Collier and Joss Stone. Dusk, his debut recording as leader, sees him take a hand-picked, top-class group through seven original compositions with dazzling fluidity and a shining sound.

James Copus DuskHaving had the opportunity to assemble a group of musicians who really support his musical vision, Copus was clearly able to write with them in mind. New York drummer Jason Brown plays a key role in setting the scene and driving the music forwards, moving from the lightest of cymbal colouring into cracking beats effortlessly. Londoners Tom Cawley (piano/synth) and Conor Chaplin (double bass) complete the line-up.

The first thing to say about the music is that Copus is an astonishing musician. He mentions Kenny Wheeler as an inspiration, and that’s a great starting point both in terms of style and composition. Copus is perhaps even more quicksilver in his music. He seems to be able to make the three-valved brass tube of both trumpet and flugelhorn behave more like a flute at times, leaping from top to bottom to top again with agility and purity of tone.

Early Hours opens with atmospheric chords and ticking drums that give space to an opening statement from Copus before gathering pace, almost as if the sun is rising over Soho. Conor Chaplin’s double bass is immensely strong in underpinning the shifts in feel, from rapid walking pulse to resounding pedal notes. The Line finds space for an intriguing piano solo from Cawley, doubling himself in octaves with both hands before shifting to synth pad sounds when Copus steps forward armed with his flugelhorn to pick the pace up even further. Jason Brown’s dramatic and shifting drums are always right there, finding exactly the right feel for the next section when the moment comes.

Title track Dusk offers a different sound with Copus contributing a vocal line underneath his own trumpet obligato, adding both an extra texture and a moment of difference and reflection in amongst all the musical mastery. He’s not going to make it in Vegas as a crooner but, like Reuben James on his Slow Down EP, Copus is not shy of stepping into the vocal spot for a few moments and adding another dimension. I can see this going down well on the radio. Straight Ahead starts with a trumpet/drum duo that really hits the high notes before the band kick in with some literally straight-ahead four in a bar jazz which segues across different tempi.

This is a highly effective opening to James Copus’ career as a leader and composer. Another great release from Ubuntu Music, whose range of talent continues to expand impressively.

The album is available now on iTunes and other platforms. A Soho launch gig is planned in September 2020. 

LINK: Preview the album at Ubuntu Music

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