AMBROSE AKINMUSIRE | New York, Winter Jazz Fest

Jazz is blessed with many artists whose intelligence shapes their music and their performance. Moreso than in other art forms and media, this intellectual faculty is deployed and required to access the disparate facets and complexities of the music’s history, technicality and living, improvised present. To see Ambrose Akinmusire is to see an abundance of those threads come together no matter how brief the performance.

Painting with lingering minims, Ambrose’s trumpet summons Webster Halls still-arriving audience to the old stage on East 11th Street. The multi-venue, staggered nature of the Winter Jazz Fest marathon evenings means that the occupancy of any room will fluctuate — over the course of this set it probably doubles. With Sam Harris (piano) and Harish Raghavan (bass) manufacturing harmonic structure, Ambrose’s patience takes centre stage — a pensieve artist whose gestures are thoughtful and deliberate. Then in contrast, a tumbling chaotic piano and trumpet interplay that shows off the bands dexterity.

When Justin Brown’s drums come to the fore, Ambrose steps aside so that the audience can get a good look at the percussive master at work. And while Justin’s talent is at the service of the band, Akinmusire takes the time to fix a parabolic cymbal that has come loose due to Justin’s fondness for smashing it — true team work in the heat of live music.

Ambrose doesn’t talk much — he lets his trumpet do so much of the communication. When he does, it’s to tell as ‘this tune is simply called Roy‘. He plays the first notes, makes a quick spit valve adjustment and then produces a piece that is as lyrical, kind and empathetic as its subject. It’s this sort of deft knowledge, composition and execution that earns Ambrose such a favourable reputation, one I’m sure that is putting a smile on Mr Hargrove’s face, wherever he is in the cosmos.

Winter Jazz Fest 2020 runs until 18 Jan across the city and for the first time in Brooklyn.

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