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The Mystic Trumpeter

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Album Review

In the liner notes he wrote for The Mystic Trumpeter, Randy Sandke makes an interesting comparison: Sandke, himself a trumpeter, compares jazz to the 19th century poetry of Walt Whitman (b. 1819, d. 1892). Sandke writes that "both revel in joy and irreverence — delight in controlled anarchy and a love of freedom in all its variety" and goes on to say that "Whitman, with his untamed mane and beard, was a prototype for all the rebellious hipsters that inhabited smoky basement clubs." And Whitman's poem "The Mystic Trumpeter" is the inspiration for most of the music on this 72-minute CD, which was recorded in 2003 and 2004. Sandke's "The Mystic Trumpeter" is a six-movement piece that favors the more abstract and cerebral side of post-bop; the mildly avant-garde piece doesn't go out of its way to be accessible, but it offers rewards to those who aren't afraid of some abstraction and don't always insist on instant gratification from music. The same goes for "Symphony for Six," the intellectual four-movement piece that follows "The Mystic Trumpeter"; drawing on influences ranging from Charles Mingus to mid-'60s Miles Davis, "Symphony for Six" isn't any less challenging. It should be noted that although this album was recorded in the early 2000s, "The Mystic Trumpeter" and "Symphony for Six" are both extended works that Sandke performed on-stage in New York City in the '90s — "The Mystic Trumpeter," in fact, was written in 1992 (the centennial of Whitman's death). So why didn't he record them sooner? As Sandke points out in the liner notes, record companies aren't always receptive to ambitious ideas. But Evening Star was obviously receptive, and the company should be applauded for not being afraid to release this worthwhile CD.


Born: 1949 in Chicago, IL

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '20s, '40s, '90s

Since his emergence in the mid-'80s, Randy Sandke has been one of the top swing-oriented trumpeters in jazz. His older brother Jordan (himself a fine trumpeter) introduced Randy to the many styles of jazz. In 1968 he formed a rock band with Michael Brecker that featured a horn section and they played at the Notre Dame Jazz Festival. However, Sandke had to turn down the opportunity to join Janis Joplin's band due to a hernia in his throat. Although an operation corrected the problem, Sandke's loss...
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The Mystic Trumpeter, Randy Sandke
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