Ambrose Akinmusire, The Imagined Savior…
His tone is similar to Douglas’smelancholic, tending toward minor keys, but capable of uncorking brash, fast flourishes when they’re called for. (Both musicians cite Booker Little as an influence, and it shows; Akinmusire also lists Clifford Brown, while Douglas goes more for Miles Davis, and you can hear that in where they differthe former a bit beefier, the latter, now 51, more poignant and subtle.)
Where Akinmusire (pronounced ack-in-MOO-sir-ee) has developed since his breakout is in the two-part horn harmonies: sophisticated, dark, letting in a shimmering ray of light as they take an unexpected turn. It helps that he and his partner in bloom, tenor saxophonist Walter Smith III, have been playing together since high school. They seemed clairvoyant three years ago; now they read each other’s minds while turning somersaults.
The rest of the quartet is also the sameHarish Raghavan on bass, Justin Brown on drums, and Sam Harris on piano (who replaced Gerald Clayton soon after the first album’s release)and they’re all longtime friends, and ace musicians, too. On several tracks, the band expands to include a string quartet or guitar, but they don’t clutter the works. Akinmusire has said in interviews that his intent was to stretch a note or a chord in ways that only strings can, and that’s how they come off. They never melt into “jazz-with-strings” or some other sort of fusion. (A couple of songs also have singers, but they meld with the music as well.)
The sound, as before, is by Dave Darlington. The first album was tight and bracing. On this one, he lends a warm density to those harmoniesit’s a nice, big soundwhile keeping the bass tight, the drums crisp, and the guest strings restrained as a tonic, like the composer intended.