Ambrose Akinmusire Quartet
While cloaking post-bop jazz in new fire, the trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire has stretched the tradition into the realms of hip-hop, pop, and the spoken word across a fifteen-year career that has the burnished authority of one twice that length. Born in Oakland, California, the gifted young player was touring Europe with Steve Coleman’s Five Elements while still a student at the Manhattan School of Music. Just a few years later, in 2007, Akinmusire won the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition and released his debut album, Prelude…To Cora. Its unmistakable point of view, as well as Akinmusire’s work with the likes of Esperanza Spalding and Vijay Iyer, caused Blue Note Records to come calling.
Since then, four studio albums, one live album, and an influential feature on Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly have all verified Akinmusire as a standard-bearer of his generation. In 2020, on the tender spot of every calloused moment convened his regular quartet: pianist Sam Harris, who released a wonderful solo album, SOLO, in 2021; bassist Harish Raghavan, whose debut as a bandleader, Calls for Action, wowed in 2019; and drummer Justin Brown, whose playing is supple enough to stretch from Thundercat to Kenny Garrett.
Together, these thoughtful talents received a Grammy nomination for Best Jazz Instrumental Album for a record that “speaks Akinmusire’s heart and mind in the anguished intensity of his horn, recalling the great Booker Little,” The New Yorker said. “Some of the pieces … exhibit virtuosic dazzle, but the less frenetic performances reveal his gift for dramatic understatement.”