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recording of the week,Ambrose Akinmusire- Owl Song

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    Posted: 26 Dec 2023 at 10:38pm

recording of the week,Ambrose Akinmusire - Owl Song

by Barney Whittaker 

Of all the new stateside music releases, none catch the attention of contemporary listeners more quickly than those of Ambrose Akinmusire. The prestigious trumpeter, who was quick to rise to critical acclaim, rapidly entered into the wider consciousness of the jazz audience when he signed to the Blue Note label in 2010. His music is notable for its expressionistic style, often contained within intimate layers of nebulous accompaniment. 

 For the premier in a series of three recordings lined up for release on the Nonesuch label over the next year, he calls on two of the most innovative and genre-spanning jazz performers at work today: the revolutionary guitarist and composer Bill Frisell, and the acclaimed drummer and member of the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra led by Wynton Marsalis, Herlin Riley. Owl Song marks his first studio collaboration with either musician. 

In terms of its audible landscape, the album is sparse and expansive; it prefers to explore the peripheral scenes, highlighting the spaces between the margins as opposed to commanding the centre of attention that already well-known territory. In fact, the enrichingly humble performances each carry between them a state of poised reflection. Perhaps this quality owes to the record's strigine title, of which, Akinmusire states: I have special affinity for the owls. Their personality is so distinctive... always observing." The overall approach of the ensemble is soft, cautious and questioning. 

 To achieve the keen sense of mystery conveyed through this recording, it was perhaps a blessing that Frisell recieved the call. His subdued style has become the stuff of legend since his emergence on the scene in the early eighties, further imbuing the legacy of Americana guitar with a hushed reverence. What a joy it is then that Riley, ever the consumate professional, is so capable of trimming down the layers and adapting to this calm display of serenity. That's not to say this album is bent on sacrificing personal quirks and touches in favour of maintaining its thematic content, however. With consecutive tracks 'Mr Frisell' and 'Mr Riley', both supporting members of this trio are permitted to glisten in their own sensitive manner, with Frisell hanging on every barre chord like a trapeze artist in mid-air. Meanwhile, Riley takes to the strolling upbeat pomp of his own eponymous tune (a strikingly unexpected and ear-pricking moment during the album's blissful duration, I have to say) with all the charisma and tact you would expect from a New Orleans-native. 

For his latest project, Akinmusire has expressed that each of its three albums will spotlight a distinct element of his musical world, involving different instrumentation and production approaches. As a player who eschews predictable statements or easy answers, it's simply a marvel to bask in his soulful and open-ended form of introspection; a form of gentle self-interrogation. But, as the year draws to its inevitable close, who knows what further revelations may lie in store. For one, I can certainly envisage Owl Song and its successors making their indellible mark on our hearts and minds in 2024.  


Owl Song 

Ambrose Akinmusire

Available Formats: CD, MP3, FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

from www.prestomusic.com

Edited by snobb - 26 Dec 2023 at 10:39pm
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