Someone described 28-year-old California-born trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire’s endearing essays in trumpet as “masterpieces of patient development,” and there is indeed a certain patience about the musician’s debut record. But there is too a winning freshness, a sense of youthful vitality in the quintet, whose other members are Justin Brown on drums, pianist Gerald Clayton, bassist Harish Raghavan, and tenor saxophonist Walter Smith. Yet despite the impressive air of vitality and effervescence, a kind of gnarled wisdom - with which the aforementioned 'patience' must surely be bound up - informs the exercise.
But there is something so delightfully shifting about this long, peripatetic creation that one is wary of making any pat summation about its charms. The opening track, the beautifully-titled Confessions to My Unborn Daughter has a striking geometry. Firstly you hear some solo trumper riffing, a series of effusive notes, as though Akinmusire was trying out his instrument, warming it up. Then a brief flurry of deliciously feathery piano (the Clayton lad has heard a fair bit of Debussy in his time, as presumably most jazz pianists have.)
Useful tip: don’t turn the volume up at this point, if you think it’s a bit low because when the bass and drums arrive, they rev in with a hard, emphatic jolt, followed soon by the sax. It’s as though this quintet is saying ‘we mean business,’ we can do light and shade. Confessions to My Unborn Daughter is the longest track on the album, at 8 minutes 36 seconds.
The second track Jaya sounds more like Brad Mehldau with brass. Busy piano occupies the foreground, until sax and trumpet start talking back and forth at each other. The track builds from diffident beginnings into a restrained frenzy, and there is an assured, relentless drive about it, like most of the 13 tracks.
What’s New is jaunty and bluesy, trumpet and piano rock along pleasantly together for a spell, as rhythm section and sax butt out. I love the delicate scintillations and watery, lily pad reflections of Henya, with its furtive, vibes-like piano and sparse drum lead-in. This is the `ultimate chill-out track,’ it paints away wonderfully on a peace-making canvas, rallying quietly to its modest crescendos.