Ambrose Akinmusire, Owl Song Review
Ambrose Akinmusire’s latest offering, Owl Song, released via Nonesuch Records, marks a significant chapter in modern jazz. The album shows Akinmusire’s evolution as a trumpeter and composer, unfolding an intimate narrative through a trio formation, including guitarist Bill Frisell and drummer Herlin Riley. This unique assembly breathes life into Akinmusire’s eight compositions, each echoing a response to our era’s relentless information deluge.
The rhythmic structures across the album demonstrate an elastic quality, a hallmark of the trio’s approach. Riley’s drumming provides a foundational groove that underpins each song’s character and exploration. His use of Afro-Cuban and tribal rhythms adds a polyrhythmic and layered texture to the sound, which enhances the album’s overall mood. Frisell’s contribution is textural playing, as his style adds a unique dimension to the album, blending with Akinmusire’s trumpet and Riley’s drums to create a cohesive and compelling musical narrative.
The opening track, “Owl Song 1”, immediately immerses the listener in a realm of lyrical beauty. Akinmusire’s ambient trumpet melodies intertwine with Frisell’s textural guitar parts, creating an introspective experience with elements of folk/country jazz and ambient modern jazz. The song is colorfully propelled by Riley, setting the emotional groundwork for its framework with space and rhythmic constructions.
“Weighted Corners” demonstrates the interplay of the trio. Frisell uses two guitar parts, over which Akinmusire performs elongated trumpet lines that form relaxed yet engaging arching melodies. Riley’s rhythmic pacing, supported by soft hand percussion, epitomizes the album’s balance of calm and groove, a recurring theme in Akinmusire’s works on this project.
“Grace” showcases the trio’s talent for crafting distinct musical identities. The song’s vibe is built on the trio’s understanding of space and texture, where precise harmonic and melodic statements are played over deeply engaging drum sounds.
“Mr. Riley” is a duet between Riley and Akinmusire with a New Orleans march undercurrent. The two share a contagious chemistry. Both listen and develop motifs and patterns that are flowing and storytelling.
“Henya” closes the album, an ambient ballad that epitomizes the essence of Owl Song. The looping guitar, warm, wide-ranging trumpet tones, and scintillating drum work culminate in a piece that reaffirms life amidst a chaotic world.
Akinmusire’s playing style is introspective and expressive, focusing on emotional depth rather than technical skill. His use of space, dynamics, and lyrical melodic sensibility add to the album’s contemplative feel. His ability to engage in a musical dialogue with his collaborators speaks to his deep musical understanding and empathy. Throughout Owl Song, Akinmusire’s compositions blend pre-composed elements with improvisation, a deliberate approach that allows for a fluid dialogue between the three players of structure and freedom.
Owl Song is Ambrose Akinmusire presenting an album that is a rewarding listening experience, promising to reveal new layers with each encounter. Owl Song is Akinmusire, showing his versatility and undeniably making a serene yet profound statement. That’s the short of it!
Connect with Ambrose Akinmusire: Website |
December 15, 2023