Always good to see the kids all growed up and doing well. I first heard Ambrose Akinmusire over a decade ago, on stage with Steve Coleman on the South Bank. He had a fiery style and came over as clearly self-assured on stage despite, or perhaps because of, his youth. Since then I've seen his name checked by Joni Mitchell - praise indeed - in Michelle Mercer's Will You Take Me As I Am, and this set confirms the potential with a solid collection of virtuoso pieces, with Akinmusire backed by an excellent team of musicians.
The opener, Confessions To My Unborn Daughter, enters gently with just Akinmusire playing solo. The next phase, as the rest of the band join in, is marked by rapid arpeggios on the trumpet and Walter Smith's tenor sax. Later on Smith's sax has a Coltrane-esque sound about it.
Co-producer Jason Moran contributes some nice Fender Rhodes on track 4, Henya, which also features some interesting glissandi from the trumpet, a device Akinmusire also uses well at the beginning of track 7, Regret, a duo also featuring a graceful piano accompaniment from Gerald Clayton. There's also some standout piano from Clayton on the previous track, With Love, underpinned by some rumbling and crackling drum and cymbal work from Justin Brown. Brown's own prowess is well demonstrated on My Name Is Oscar, which is mostly him, apart from the leader intoning the occasional word or phrase, which reminded me a little of Ginsberg or a Dada poem.
Without wishing to detract at all from my overall evaluation of this collection, I have to admit I don't find this as exciting as some of the other Coleman alumni's work, such as (also trumpeter) Graham Haynes's The Griot's Footsteps, where the music, like Coleman's, experiments with genres and instrumentation, even beating him to the punch with the use of the sitar. Akinmusire has instead gone off more in the direction of Greg Osby, leaving behind the M-Base groove. It's a little like the little boy who runs away from the circus to join a bank. He's an excellent banker, but the bank lacks the frisson of the circus. The music is mostly fairly gentle stuff, with only track 10, The Walls Of Lechuguilla, showing any signs of the funky concoctions of Akinmusire's mentor, although it's probably closer to Bird and Diz.
Nevertheless, this is an enjoyable set, nowhere more so than the penultimate title, Tear Stained Suicide Manifesto, a tender piece with some particularly affective piano, complemented perfectly by Harish Raghavan's bass, which growls menacingly at times. Towards the end the horns raise the volume to an emotional climax, before gently bringing us back down to earth for the ending.