Ambrose Akinmusire – When The Heart Emerges Glistening – Blue Note 509990 70619 2 9 51:04 ***½:
(Ambrose Akinmusire – trumpet; Justin Brown – drums; Gerald Clayton – piano; Harish Raghavan – bass; Walter Smith III – tenor saxophone; Jason Moran – Rhodes (tracks 4,12))
Is Ambrose Akinmusire really the second coming of Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, Clifford Brown etc., or is the praise he has been receiving a little premature given that he has only two albums to his credit? In this first disc for Blue Note Records, Akinmusire offers some tantalizing glimpses of promise, but it remains to be seen (or heard) that there is more to his playing than just technique.
In this thirteen-cut offering, Akinmusire is the composer on all of the tunes with only two exceptions,” Jaya” by bassist Harish Raghavan and the Bob Haggart/Johnny Burke standard “What’s New?” In this post-bop, free jazz context, Akinmusire’s compositions are interesting, but not riveting, and have a somewhat restless structure. The opening track “Confessions To My Unborn Daughter” features Akinmusire in an unaccompanied announcement of the theme and then the rhythm section segues into the body of the tune with disquieting creativity. As Akinmusire and the band continue to explore their musical ideas through “Jaya”,” Henya” and “With Love” it becomes clear that the formal musical boundaries are going to be breached, resulting in a sound mash up.
It seems the band is ever mindful of the need to engage the listener and it does so with remarkable effect, but with different results on “My Name Is Oscar” and “What’s New?” On the former, it is a verbal duet between Akinmusire and drummer Brown, and evokes a police shooting in Oakland the trumpeter’s hometown. In the latter, supported by Clayton’s stride piano, Akinmusire delivers a modern expressive rendition of this standard. Jason Moran, who along with Akinmusire co-produced the disc, glides into “Tear Stained Suicide Manifesto” on Rhodes adding his unique accompaniment to the composition.
Early accolades aside, this project, while acknowledging Akinmusire’s talent, suggests he still requires some seasoning before conferring idol status.
TrackList: Confessions To My Unborn Daughter; Jaya; Henya Bass Intro; Henya; Far But Few Between; With Love; Regret(No More); Ayneh(Cora); My Name Is Oscar; The Walls Of Lechuguilla; What’s New?; Tear Stained Suicide Manifesto; Ayneh(Campbell)
— Pierre Giroux