Two for the Trumpet: Thrilling New Releases by Carol Morgan and Mikrokoleltyw (2010)


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By Pico

Throughout all of the history of jazz, trumpet players were always in the vanguard: Armstrong, Gillespie, Davis, Bowie, I could go on. The common theme with the two fresh offerings go beyond the fact that they are led or co-led by trumpeters; these are releases that in some form or another challenges the conventions of mainstream jazz. And each leader takes a differing approach in pushing their music out toward the edges.

Which is precisely why I thought it might be cool to trumpet, orherald, the arrival of these CD's as examples of brass players working to keep jazz intriguing, unpredictable and expanding. One of the three releases I originally had planned to include in this piece somehow ended up as a full-blown review on its own, but that doesn't diminish the fact that what is left is no less challenging nor exciting.

Here's are my impressions on these remaining impressive pieces of work:

Carol Morgan Trio Opening: Composer, bandleader, author, educator, and of course, trumpet player Carol Morgan issued her third album as a leader last April on Blue Bamboo Music, the trio workout Opening. We've seen several records through the years of piano-less trios led by sax players, but somewhat less of trumpet players, at least in the bop form. Morgan makes a fine addition to this under utilized configuration.

Inspired from having to perform some recent gigs at the famed Dizzy's Club Coca Cola in NYC without the benefit of stage room for a piano, Morgan put together a three piece band with her first choices at drum and bass: Rich DeRosa and Harvie S. Recognizing the elevated importance of having the right drummer and bassist in such a lean format is a big reason why this record works; DeRosa is a master of shadings and subtleties that accentuates, not overtakes, the leader. Harvie S, as we noted here before, is a bassist of the highest order, the owner of a beautiful tone and a lyrical bent. He works in perfect tandem with both DeRosa and Morgan. His swinging, astonishing solo on Bud Powell's “Celia" makes the case he was perfect for this assignment.

As for Morgan herself, she is well versed in the balancing act of improvising and carrying the melody simultaneously. Through the Don Cherry articulations of the original “Opening Line" through the lush but lean romantic lines in Jimmie Van Heusen's classic “Like Someone In Love," Morgan shows time and again she knows how to construct a solo with choosing the right notes with the right accents, making one think she's written the book on jazz improvisation. Guess what, she did in fact wrote the book on jazz improvisation.

Alto saxophonist Woody Witt sits in for some inspired interaction with Morgan for Harvie S's structurally sophisticated “Sizzle," as well as DeRosa's 6/8 African-flavored number “Dark Continent," but it's DeRosa's own exploitation of the uneven time signature that steals the show. Add some very useful, exuberant and unpretentious liner notes from Morgan's friend and sax great Joel Frahm, and Opening offers the complete package for a trumpet-led CD of prime bop jazz played with taste and technical excellence.

Visit Carol's site here.

Here's a scorching live performance of the band playing Lou Donaldson's funky soul-jazz standard “Midnight Creeper":

Purchase: Carol Morgan Trio--Opening

Mikrokolektyw Revisit: A name nearly as unpronounceable as the one Prince adopted for most of the 90's, Mikrokolektyw is a very unusual duo consisting of Kuba Suchar on drums and Artur Majewski on trumpet. I should probably also note that both dabble in electronic effects, too, because it's their use of that which gives the music the turn of the century atmospherics that would be hard to achieve without them.

I did say this setup is unusual, but hardly unprecedented; their approach in many respects mimics the sonic adventures of another trumpet/percussion pair, the Chicago Underground Duo. And the may not even be coincidental, as the two have performed with CUD leader Rob Mazurek on a couple of other Mazurek projects. The Chicago connection is strengthened by Mikrokolektyw's new release, out since June 22, being a Delmark record. Yet, Mikrokolektyw is a Polish act. In fact, it's the first European avant-garde act ever signed by this longtime Chicago's stalwart jazz and blues label.

This combo out of Wroclaw does have some distinction from Mazurek's trumpet/drums experiments. Whereas the Chicago Underground Duo emphasize chops and organic performance, Mikrokolektyw takes an extra step or two toward setting electro-acoustic moods and textures. Majewski is content to hold notes and Suchar is happy to lock into a groove as long as the sounds they make are exotic and provocative. But as they make recreate some of the hypnotism evident in Miles' seminal early fusion work, this ain't no lightweight new age stuff, either. The leading title track is part sci-fi thriller, part African tribal dance, part electronica and all wide-open jazz. “Rocket Street" (video below) thrives on primal rhythms and cold synth grooves simultaneously. Majewski plays a spooky trumpet against a relentless jungle groove for “Tiring Holiday," while “Watermelon From The 80s" is an offbeat, mutated boss nova. Songs are kept relatively short, as the two never overplay an idea, preferring to just move on to the next one. Revisit heralds to U.S. audiences a rather unique and open-minded group out of Poland who already seems to already fit right into Chicago's vibrant whack jazz scene.

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