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Blues Twilight

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Album Review

Though he has toured extensively with the Allman Brothers and worked with numerous jazz luminaries like Randy Brecker, rising trumpeter Richard Boulger knew that the best way to intrigue fans of his instrument into listening to his second solo CD (and first in years) would be to include a quote from the master, Freddie Hubbard himself, in the liner notes. Hubbard, like Donald Byrd, was one of Boulger's teachers and is clearly not just blowing smoke, based on the strong original compositions and solo and ensemble playing on this disc. The first thing that stands out is the fact that Boulger doesn't resort to playing standards — all 12 tracks are his own compositions. Choosing to start with the somewhat cacophonous, groove-free prelude "The Eternal One" might seem off-putting to casual listeners, but plow through it and the next 68 minutes more than compensate. The swinging title track finds Boulger in sweet harmony and occasional contrast with his sax section of David Schnitter and Kris Jensen, and all three are given room to stretch out and solo intensely over the expansive seven-minute arrangement. Though Boulger says that "The Eternal One" is dedicated to his late pianist, John Hicks (whose subtle harmonic and solo work here is stellar throughout, especially on the lovely, coolly rhythmic "Miss Sarah"), a more appropriate tribute would be the midtempo, thoughtful "Letting Go," which is equal parts melancholy and exuberance. "For Souls Past" is a stark solo trumpet elegy that seems aimed at unifying the theme of loss and moving on. Mainly balanced between these mournful expressions and more uplifting notions, the disc is punctuated by interesting oddities — like the trumpet/percussion duet "Perceptions" — that distract only slightly from the more conventional and much more tuneful ensemble action. Hubbard is right: Boulger is an inspirational, emotional player. Hopefully, enough listeners will be drawn in by his heart so that they can overlook his occasional excursions into the weird zone.

Blues Twilight, Richard Boulger
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