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Album Review

This is a dream date for Russian hard bop trumpeter Valery Ponomarev that should keep fans of the hard bop style of jazz wide awake. Many listeners may simply regard Profile as part of the Joe Henderson body of water, not a bad thing at all in that this superb tenor player is Ponomarev's main foil and will constantly reward listeners' attention with neat turns of phrase, solid energy, and a tone that would still seem hearty even if surrounded by loaves of Russian bread and bowls of steaming soup. The program is an even mix of standard selections and the trumpeter's original compositions, which the band digs into with the type of appetite that might have been stimulated by the previous sentence. There's Cole Porter's "I Concentrate on You," a classic as well as a description of this fine rhythm section's attitude toward the soloists; a Harold Arlen number; and Bud Powell's "Time." The latter may seem on paper to be the alarm clock for pianist Kenny Barron, who has established a reputation for his masterly touch with the repertoire of jazz keyboard masters. The truth is that Barron is in fine form throughout, as is Ponomarev. "I Was Afraid You'd Never Call Me" kicks off the album, the title perhaps a reflection on the career of this often-overlooked but never under-swinging trumpeter and composer. If this early-'90s session sounds exactly like an old Blue Note or Prestige session, it isn't just because of the players' style; engineer Rudy Van Gelder was in the booth, doing his usual beautiful thing.


Born: 20 January 1943 in Moscow, Russia

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

The first major Russian jazz musician to make an impression in the United States, Valery Ponomarev has always had an attractive tone, a swinging style, and a strong interest in keeping the hard bop legacy of Clifford Brown alive. He played as regularly as possible in the Soviet Union, recording for the Melodiya label and appearing at jazz festivals until defecting in 1973. Four years later, he joined Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, a perfect outlet for his style, from 1977-1980; he recorded nine...
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