Dave Ballou is a seasoned versatile trumpeter who, along with interesting projects in both jazz and classical music, has spent a lot of his professional life on commercial gigs, as Nate Wooley pointed out during a recent workshop at McGill University in Montréal, during the second annual Canadian version of the Festival of New Trumpet (FONT) which took place in March 2016. Wooley, one of the most creative improvisers out there these days, cited Ballou as one of the trumpeters he admires and I assume Wooley would be delighted to hear Ballou on this release where he gets to stretch and cover a wide spectrum of technique and imagination.
Indeed, this solo album stands as a kind of summary of the state of the art of trumpet playing, which has evolved by leaps and bounds over the last few decades, as exemplified by the work of more familiar names in the improvised music world, like Wooley and Dave Douglas. The new approach is wide-open, and runs the gamut from clear broad tones — the "beautiful sound" that is a trumpet ideal conceived and taught across the ages — and the edgier, circular-breathing-fuelled intensity of the noise segments of the sound conception and a lot of difficult-to-describe nuances that one finds in between. The new aesthetic, however, is probably not entirely new since it can be traced to early jazz players like Bubber Miley and Rex Stewart, and more recent stylists like Bill Dixon, Don Cherry, Dave Douglas, Greg Kelley and Peter Evans, to name just a few. Also, some of what contemporary trumpeters are doing with the horn is an expansion of elements that were clearly part of the sound of some mainstream jazz greats like Miles Davis, Freddie Hubbard, Booker Little, Woody Shaw, etc, with the smears, cackles, intervallic contours and microtonal inflections that were intrinsic to their conceptions.
Given the new common practice of the trumpet, what Ballou is bringing to the table is a mature musician's juggling of the new timbral colours in pre-composed pieces referencing such people as the late great lead trumpeter and teacher Laurie Frink, the jazz stalwart Clark Terry and the younger Wooley himself. The album also contains several tracks of entirely improvised music that show how Ballou can imagine things on his feet and can execute them with enviable skill.
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