Ambrose Akinmusire, "A Rift in Decorum: Live at the Village Vanguard" (Blue Note, two discs)
How on earth did the trumpet reclaim the position of leading jazz avant-garde instrument when the saxophone had so long reigned supreme?
However it happened, we have the offspring of Wadada Leo Smith, Don Cherry and others to credit. With Dave Douglas about to release a record jammed with Carla Bley in July, there's no question that the lion among ambitious young jazz trumpet players is Ambrose Akinmusire. His previous records have been good but, in some cases, so elaborately produced that you had trouble getting the best sense of him as a player.
This recent live set from the Village Vanguard uses a quartet as opposed to his usual quintet with saxophonist Walter Smith III. You've got to love a disc titled "A Rift in Decorum" as well as one whose tune "H.A.M.S. (In the Spirit of Honesty)" is said to be titled with initials because some of the older and more venerable obscenities comprise the full words following the initials. Rifts, says Akinmusire, are places where he thinks beauty comes from.
He also describes some of this music as in-your-face and not-so-in-your-face (as well as describing some of it as reminiscent of Morton Feldman.) He is a fascinating young (35) jazz player at the moment – one of the most provocative there is. And this two-disc live set from one of jazz's authentic temples is an ideal way to judge both him and his young quartet (where, for instance, pianist Sam Harris is as comfortable as can be launching himself into Cecil Taylor-ish expressionism).
3 stars (out of four)