the imagined savior is far easier to paint
"After the stunning modern jazz trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire delivered on the acclaimed When the Heart Emerges Glistening in 2011, he plays it anything but safe on the imagined savior is far easier to paint. With his working quintet — tenor saxophonist Walter Smith, drummer Justin Brown, bassist Harish Raghavan, and pianist Sam Harris — he expands the frame to include guitarist Charles Altura in a sextet or alternating with Smith. In addition, vocalists Becca Stevens, Cold Specks, and Theo Bleckman (all of whom contribute lyrics) appear, as do the Osso String Quartet and flutist Elena Penderhughes. Akinmusire self-produced this set and showcases a diverse range of carefully scripted, genre-blurring compositions — modern classical, vanguard pop, spoken word — in addition to jazz. the imagined savior is far easier to paint is provocative: its moodiness, myriad musical directions, and 79-minute length may be initially off-putting. What is revealed with repeated listening, however, is that this set's achievement is commensurate with its ambition." - AllMusic
When the heart emerges glistening
"When the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz medal he was awarded was still shiny and new, Ambrose Akinmusire shocked many with a debut recording that reached far beyond bebop and its traditions. To many, Akinmusire is the brightest beacon on trumpet, the sharpest in a few decades. On his Blue Note debut he continues to emphasize ensemble work over showmanship and loose song structures over tight themes. His unorthodox midtempo compositions play out as little more than ambiguous sketches. Each musician finds a motif and goes with it, which in some cases means the bass of Harish Raghavan or Walter Smith III's tenor saxophone dominates a performance rather than Akinmusire. His ballads are more traditionally reflective; an opportunity to create an exchange in solemn tones or exhalation, as he and the band does on the album's fine closer, "Tear Stained Suicide Manifesto." Akinmusire has chosen to challenge listeners, exploring free territory where Smith squeaks and squawks his way into the wilderness. He sets up the experience with the set's opener, "Confessions to My Unborn Daughter," a strength-building exercise in which the musicians find their place and get their collective bearings before taking off for the unknown." - Billboard
Prelude... To Cora
"New visions and colorful dreams emanate from the horn and pen of trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire. You would expect the first place winner of the 2007 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Trumpet Competition to come out with his horn a-blazing, voraciously showing his chops. While he does have the honored award and sharpened abilities, his debut recording, Prelude: to Cora, is one that walks quietly yet carries a huge stick of inspiring, focused and enlightened music that is well beyond his youthful expectations. "
MARK F. TURNER, All about jazz
Published: May 14, 2008