Ambrose Akinmusire – When the Heart Emerges Glistening

January 01, 1970

(Blue Note)


Trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire is the next in a line of young
jazz prodigies given the big push. If he was a rock or pop musician, we’d
probably look askance at the prodigy notion and not take him seriously. But in
jazz, prodigies are welcomed, even celebrated – when you work in an unfairly
marginalized music, it’s important to encourage the younger generations in
order to keep the music fresh.


Fortunately, When the
Heart Emerges Glistening
is worth the hype. Oakland native Akinmusire is a prodigious
talent on his horn, with a nimble technique and a strong tone equally at home
with mellow and vigorous. His powerful blowing on “Far But Few Between”
bespeaks a fondness for free jazz as much as post bop, while his languorous
lines on “What’s New” induce heartbreak as much as heaven. His playing expertly
walks a tightrope, never teetering over into staid traditionalism, but never
going too far into the hinterlands, either. Like his mentor/co-producer Jason
Moran, Akinmusire shows equal respect for melody and madness.


But ultimately it’s not his skill with his instrument that
makes his debut album stand out – it’s his sense of composition and ability to
lead his pride of young lions down whatever path his vision takes him. Having
gathered a band of equally precocious talents around him, Akinmusire knows when
to turn them loose and when to rein them in. He allows saxophonist Walter Smith
III to dominate “Jaya,” for example, and gives drummer Justin Brown and Moran
free rein on the melancholy “Tear Stained Suicide Manifesto.” His regular
pianist Gerald Clayton distinguishes himself throughout, sympathetic one moment
and flamboyant the next. But Akinmusire isn’t letting the band walk all over
him – he focuses them like a laser on the growing dynamics of “Confessions to
My Unborn Daughter” and the elegant chaos of “The Walls of Lechuguilla.”


Like his mentor Moran, Akinmusire has a penchant for
ignoring boundaries between the various subgenres of jazz, comfortable mixing
sinful and sacred due to his confidence that the spirit comes from the same
place. With his vision already firmly in place, Akinmusire makes a strong
showing of talent and ambition on When
the Heart Emerges Glistening


Stained Suicide Manifesto,” “Far But Few Between,” “Henya” MICHAEL TOLAND

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