Prelude To Cora (Fresh Sound New Talent)

Ambrose Akinmusire

Released October 7, 2008

Jazzwise Top 10 Releases of 2008




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. 

Like his contemporaries (pianist Robert Glasper, drummer Kendrick Scott and guitarist Mike Moreno), Akinmusire draws inspiration not just within the jazz continuum, but also from his environment: urban and classical persuasions, historical reflection and socially conscious motivation. An example is heard on the audacious opening piece “Dreams of the Manbahsniese”—with its construction and execution of melody, the instrument arrangements, classically trained voice by singer Junko Watanabe and the coloring of electronics. It’s a conglomeration of new sounds for a new millennium. 

All of the music was composed by Akinmusire, with the exception of three tracks, including the lone standard “Stablemates” by saxophonist Benny Golson. Instead of the obligatory hip-funk-swing session, the compositions are well-thought-out and thought-provoking. There are riveting pieces like Aaron Parks’ “Ghost Ship,” where Akinmusire’s warm tone exudes both melancholy and optimism; or the haunting, cinematic vastness of “M.I.S.T.A.G. (My Inappropriate Soundtrack to a Genocide),” with soul-wrenching voice and wailing horns.  Though Akinmusire has burning chops (touches of Clifford Brown, Tomasz Stanko and Terence Blanchard), he altruistically shares his light with the other musicians, purposed towards the larger musical picture and revealing his quiet leadership. 

And speaking of the band, Akinmusire is also joined by other young newcomers who donate stimulating performances. Chris Dingman’s chilled vibe work highlights the soulful “Aroca,” while Walter Smith and Logan Richardson create fiery sax exchanges on “Dingmandingo.” Aaron Parks, another bright pianist, joins Akinmusire in a wonderful duo on the swinging “Stablemates,” both showing brilliance and a respect to the jazz masters of the past. Last, but surely not forgotten, is the stalwart (and lively) foundation of bassist Joe Sanders and drummer Justin Brown. This is an exceptional debut from an unassuming yet extremely talented new voice.

Track Listing:

1. Dreams of the Manbahsniese (Ambrose Akinmusire) 7:38

2. Vibe Solo/Intro (Ambrose Akinmusire) 1:05

3. Aroca (Ambrose Akinmusire) 8:46

4. Humsong (Skidrow Anthem) (Ambrose Akinmusire) 6:04

5. M.I.S.T.A.G. (My Inappropriate Soundtrack to a Genocide) (Ambrose Akinmusire) 5:23

6. Trumpet Intro/Dedication to Ruby (Ambrose Akinmusire) 2:21

7. Ruby (Ambrose Akinmusire) 9:27

8. Trapped in a Dream (Aaron Parks) 5:36

9. Dingmandingo (Walter Smith III) 9:18

10. Stablemates (Benny Golson) 5:17


Ambrose Akinmusire: trumpet

Aaron Parks: piano

Joe Sanders: bass

Justin Brown: drums

Chris Dingman: vibraphone

Walter Smith III: tenor sax

Special Guests

Junko Watanabe: vocals (1, 5, 7)

Logan Richardson: alto sax (5, 9)

Recorded April 21, 2008, in Brooklyn, New York City
Produced by Ambrose Akinmusire
Executive producer: Jordi Pujol
Sound engineer: Andy Taub
Mixed & mastered by Dave Darlington
Artwork & design: Alicia Vergel de Dios


“On Prelude: to Cora, trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire offers a wide-open musical perspective, inviting a wealth of influences to shape a personalized approach to improvisation and composition. Akinmusire seems content with allowing the music to fall where it may; eschewing trends and any pre-conceived notions about what is expected from a debut recording.
The Oakland, California-native generously shares the spotlight with his ensemble of like-minded collaborators. Pianist Aaron Parks, vibraphonist Chris Dingman, tenor saxophonist Walter Smith III, bassist Joe Sanders and drummer Justin Brown each bring a voice of distinction, leading the way for much of the session. Brown’s beat-box-meets-Tony Williams fury on the opening “Dreams of the Manbahsniese” is a fascinating contrast to Akinmusire’s flowing theme. Dingman is downright hypnotic on “Vibe Solo Intro” and “Aroca.” Parks demonstrates imaginative solos and contributes the pop-influenced tune “Ghost Ship.” 
Although Akinmusire’s trumpet playing is not the primary focus here; there is plenty of space allotted for the leader’s acrobatic blowing. The spontaneity and forcefulness on “HumSong (Skidrow Anthem)” balances nicely with the more melancholic “Trumpet Intro/Dedication to Ruby.” The young trumpeter’s straight-ahead chops are showcased on Benny Golson’s “Stablemates,” performed as a duet with Parks. 
Prelude: to Cora is so full of unbound creativity, it will be interesting to see what this emerging artist has in store for the jazz world.”

John Barron (AllAboutJazz)