|Recorded January 2006.
What’s an improvising trumpet player with tastes targeted to the “mainstream” to do these days? The weight of precedence is so heavy as to be Sisyphean in scope and with cats like Wynton Marsalis, Roy Hargrove and Wallace Roney already occupying the populous playing field it’s even harder to get an album in edgewise. Marcus Printup confronts the problem with relaxed confidence and poise on Peace in the Abstract. The stylistic and structural parameters of the project are transparently familiar: traditional jazz quintet instrumentation, a cross-section of modal, blues and funk numbers dipped in the crowd-pleasing pigments popularized by the Sixties-era Blue Note roster of artists; a healthy allowance for individual solos; etc. Printup doesn’t appear at all troubled by the repertory feel of his program. Instead, the priority rests in projecting a cohesive band feel and pervasive sense of fun.
Returning an earlier favor accorded him, Printup invites saxophonist Greg Tardy to share in the frontline. Tardy sounds less-fettered here than on his own Steeplechase date, mixing elements of Shorter, Turrentine and Coltrane to match the mood of each piece, whether it be the rolling gospel rhythms of Horace Silverish opener “Your Time Has Come” or the verdant harmonies that nourish the slowly-simmering “I Will Sing of You”. Cole Porter’s “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye” gets a faithful duo reading, Printup’s dulcet open horn spreading notes across the lush bed of chords plied by pianist Marc Cary.
The funky title track works off a bass vamp lifted from Lenny Kravitz’s “Mr. Cab Driver” while the horns engaging in spirited chase sequences against Cary’s sharply comping keys. “Hot House” also receives a strong injection of funk syncopation with the team of drummer Shinnosuke Takahashi and bassist Kengo Nakamura laying down a tight, but springy groove. Printup and Tardy trade a string of terse choruses atop an undulating beat and it’s hard to resist tapping a toe or two in response. “Deddy’s Blues”, the other duo track of the set, shows the sassy side of Printup’s brass in tandem with Nakamura’s corpulent walking bass for a bit of blues-tinted banter.
“Amazing Grace” is the album’s archetypal evidence of Printup’s ambivalence toward the possibility of critics calling him a copycat or flunky for what’s come prior in the canon. Here’s a theme that’s been interpreted innumerable times and arguably wrung dry of its possibilities for fresh explication. Printup’s reading, ripe with gospel overtones and a smooth, soulful delivery, travels a tried and true path, but works on its own terms precisely because it doesn’t self-consciously seek to radically recast the song’s form. Comfortable in his own musical skin, Printup’s composure and enthusiasm makes what otherwise might seem yet another funk-inflected platter of postbop boilerplate glow with an inviting sheen.
~ Derek Taylor