Ambrose's conceptual extension into a new musical language is never to the exclusion of beauty. As one who listens intently, he values the fertility of a pause, of communication, of tension. Ambrose began conceptualizing early as a musician, theorizing and experimenting as a catalyst for development. He seeks other genres of music to analyze and expose, drawing inspiration from such musicians as Bjork and Chopin.
Ambrose's music restructures accepted notions of jazz in a way that reflects his ability to recognize nuances, multiplicities, and patterns. First playing piano at the age of three, his familiarity with music began long before putting his mouth to a trumpet. He is relentlessly opposed to stagnation, seeking movement in both his music and his life. Before he was eighteen, Ambrose had already performed with such famed musicians as Joe Henderson, Joshua Redman, Steve Coleman, and Billy Higgins. After graduating Berkeley High School, he moved to New York to begin a scholarship at the Manhattan School of Music, studying with Vincent Pinzerella from the New York Philharmonic, Dick Oatts, Lew Soloff, and Laurie Frink.
Throughout his studies, Ambrose continued to tether audiences to his concepts and his sound, performing publicly with Lonnie Plaxico, Stefon Harris, Josh Roseman, Vijay Iyer, Charlie Persip, the Mingus Big Band, and the San Francisco Jazz Collective, to name only a few. His exposure to dynamic modes of playing and to musicians with accumulated experiences only promoted the development of his own distinct musical style. Ambrose is a recent graduate of the Masters program at USC, and also the Monk Institute, Ambrose's instructors include Terence Blanchard, Billy Childs and Gary Grant. In the past year, he has worked with such artists as Jimmy Heath, Jason Moran, Hal Crook, Bob Hurst, Terri Lynne Carrington, Ron Carter, and Wallace Roney, Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter. Most recently Ambrose is the winner of both the 2007 Carmine Caruso International Jazz Trumpet Solo Competition and 2007 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition. As for a conclusion, there is none. Ambrose's musical trajectory continues to grow in more than one direction, drawing from the most unconventional sources, unraveling the most comfortable conceptions of limitation. His persistent reevaluations and his aspirations to evolution and beauty carry it to an entirely new space within itself.
All Music Guide
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.
- Mark F. Turner (www.allaboutjazz.com/m/article.php?id=29393)