This album almost got lost when it was released just a week before the holidays. Trumpet maestro Ambrose Akinmusire, clearly one of the most imaginative artists on his instrument, or any instrument, recorded his latest Nonesuch album with Bill Frisell on guitar and the almost legendary Herlin Riley on drums. It’s a quiet album, meditative, with soft tones, open spaces, notes not played, notes free-flowing, simply beautiful. And the vinyl version only adds to the beauty.
“This is my reaction to being assaulted by information,” Akinmusire says of Owl Song. “This record is me wanting to create a safe space. Part of the challenge was: Can I create something that’s oriented around open space, the way some of the records I love the most do?”. There are haunting melodies galore on this set, like the album opener “Owl Song 1”. The sound of Bill Frisell’s guitar is just spine-tingling, extravagantly elegant with lots of hints towards folk and avantgarde. Sometimes simultaneously, sometimes back to back in the course of one song. Herlin Riley’s drum work on pieces like “Weighted Corners” is both subdued and also right in your face, but never disrupting the overall ambiance.
There is a little more suspense on “Flux Fuelings”, but the track maintains the overall hypnotic and meditative mood of the whole set. On “Owl Song 2”, it’s as if Mr. Riley dances over his drum set subtly and gracefully, with percussive precision which is really fascinating to hear. Ambrose’s virtuosity is especially clear on display on “Grace” and he also wrote two tracks which he called “Mr. Frisell” and “Mr. Riley”, both duo performances with one of his partners, respectively. The Frisell tune highly introspective and searching, the Riley tune more outspoken and moving.
Make sure to check out the trio when they make stops in select cities throughout Europe. The line-up for the Berlin show is not the same as on the album: At the Pierre Boulez Saal on February 6th, Ambrose will have Jakob Bro on guitar and Billy Hart on drums.
1/23 Katowice – National Polish Radio Symphony
1/24 Gdansk – Klub Zak
1/25 Warszawa – Jassmine Jazz Club
1/26 Budapest – Effiel Arts Studio
1/28 Helsinki – Savoy Theater
1/29 Vienna – Porgy & Bess
1/30 Ghent – HA Concerts
1/31 Brussels – Bozar Hall
2/01 Luxembourg – Philharmonie
2/03 Amsterdam – Bimhuis
2/04 Utrecht – Tivoli Vredenburg