Joe Magnarelli – Lookin’ Up – Posi-Tone PR8125, 56:05 ****:
(Joe Magnarelli – trumpet, Flugelhorn; Steve Davis – trombone; Anthony Wonsey – piano; Mike Karn – bass; Jason Brown – drums)
Joe Magnarelli has long been a trumpeter that I have dug. We previously reviewed his sublime “with strings” CD in 2011 and last year’s Live at Smalls issue teamed Joe with Mulgrew Miller just prior to Miller’s untimely passing.
It is welcome news that Joe is now with Posi-Tone Records as label guru and producer, Marc Free, knows how to find session mates to bring out the best for his roster artists. On Lookin’ Up , we find Joe’s front line trombone mate, the superb Steve Davis (of One For All fame) helping Joe flesh out the arrangements of both standards and five original Magnarelli tunes. With Anthony Wonsey leading the rhythm section, I found myself in eager anticipation of both a lyrical yet hot, near one hour swinging session. Once again Joe Mags has come through with flying colors.
I am most always pleased with the acoustics of Posi-Tone issues as both Marc, and engineer, Nick O’Toole, have an innate sense of instrument placement in the final mix, where the horns can have center stage, yet the rhythm section is upfront enough that you can sense their spurring on the horns to greater heights.
Right away on the opener, “44,” there is an immediate polish and sheen with Joe’s burnished tone, the snap of Jason Brown’s cymbals, Wonsey’s tasty comping, and Davis’ robust trombone blend with Magnarelli. The Joe/Steve simpatico is even more on display on their unaccompanied intro to “Third Set.” It’s enough to tempt you to catch a flight to New York with hopes of catching them at Smoke or Smalls.
Magnarelli can get your trumpet-loving heart pumping away happily on the up-tempo burners, yet can ease you back with cool comfort on ballads like “Inner Beauty” and “Darn That Dream.”
It’s easy to see why Joe is a professor of music at both the Juilliard School of Music and Rutgers University. Some aspiring trumpet students certainly have their tuition or scholarship funds in good hands. But we all know already that jazz is always “lookin up” in the Big Apple….
TrackList: 44, Third Set, Inner Beauty, You Go to My Head, Blue Key, Easy Transition, Suddenly It’s Spring, Miles’ Mode, Darn That Dream, In Walked Lila