Malachi Thompson: Talking Horns
Malachi Thompson is trumpeter/composer who is well known in jazz circles for his uncompromising music for his Freebop band and larger ensemble, Africa Brass. He writes well, plays with fire and always surrounds himself with great musicians. He is also a jazz activist, his liner notes on this release challenge Ken Burns and his long documentary Jazz for accuracy, completeness and the jazz link between St. Louis and Chicago.
On this, his ninth leader date for Delmark, Thompson is joined by Oliver Lake, Hamiet Bluiett, Willie Pickens, Harrison Bankhead and Reggie Nicholson—an absolutely stunning of crew of improvisers. Each voice has plenty of room to stretch out and play; yet there is a program here, complete with succinctness and variety. Thompson obviously planned his thoughts and put it on paper before calling the musicians for a freeform jam and let's find out what happened later.
The program gives us eight tunes, four by Thompson, two from Lake and two from Bluiett. Nearly all possibilities of the ensemble are present: solos, duets, trios, group improvising and, of course, fine ensemble playing from the written page. Standouts include Woody's Dream for innovator Woody Shaw, a nice melody that evokes Woody's spirit with stunning bass clarinet work from Bluiett. The title track, Talking Horns, invokes the mysterious as it superimposes Thompson's voice and various open and muted trumpets over a circular African rhythm also played by Thompson on percussion. The longest tune, Lucky Seven (which is track seven) features the ensemble exchanging familiar melodic motifs (check Freddie Hubbard's Keep Your Soul Together from the mid '70's) over a powerful ostinato vamp. Some may wish for a release from this ostinato but it is not necessary—the strong solos from all make this work.
Check this one out, especially if you like your music strong with character.-MV
Available from Delmark Records via www.delmark.com or call (800) 684-3480.