A uniquely contemporary vision for the traditional modern jazz.
Brent Black / www.criticaljazz.com
The sophomore Blue Note effort from Ambrose Akinmusire shows a remarkable maturity and lyrical clarity that may have been lacking with the debut release When The Heart Emerges Glistening. While the debut release seemed to have that shot gun approach to creativity (blasting away and hoping you hit something), The Imagined Savior is Far Easier To Paint features an expanded line up and focused intensity that should have this release at the top of most best of lists later this year.
The addition of strings and vocals is for some tap dancing in a melodic minefield but Ambrose composed twelve of the thirteen tracks and nails the production efforts on this most adventurous of recordings. Vocalists Becca Stevens, Theo Bleckman, and Cold Specks are given a blank canvas from which to create and the results are mesmerizing. The core lineup still includes tenor saxophonist Walter Smith III, pianist Sam Harris, bassist Harish Raghavan and drummer Justin Brown. Charles Altura joins in on guitar and the addition of strings lifts what could pass for a good sextet to the level of a formidable ensemble that will hopefully continue working together for years to come. A true improvisational collective.
Ambrose Akinmusire now seems comfortable with his path and best of all, he is not getting in his own way. At times some compositions border on the pretentious and self indulgent ( spoken word passages) but I tend to look at this as passion personified through a laser like creative focus. The exponential growth on display with The Imagined Savior is Far Easier ToPaint is at times stunning.
Tracks: Marie Christie; As We Fight (willie penrose); Our Basement (ed); Vartha; Memo (g. learson); The Beauty of Dissolving Portraits; Asiam (joan); Bubbles; Ceaseless Inexhaustible Child (cyntoia brown); Rollcall for Those Absent; J.E. Nilmah (Ecclesiastes 6:10); inflatedbyspinning; Richard (conduit).