The album Urbanessence – the sophomore recording by trumpeter Tito Carrillo – is his musical palimpsest. Rich in colour, texture and with the radiant timbre of his brass instrument [sometimes softened by a mute, yet still aglow], inflaming the angular riches of the woodwinds of Troy Roberts, Mr Carrillo’s horn burns with the zeal for the Black music of the Americas.
However, to suggest that this original [bar one song] repertoire merely joins the dots between Africa and the proverbial continent of the New World and the surrounding islands would be to give the impression of overcooking when in fact the whole project is a masterpiece of subtlety.
This is because Mr Carrillo’s take on the lineage of the cool, spacey trumpet is much less than conventional here, seeing him often summoning woodwind-like tones [cue “Bliss Point”] from his instrument , which float benignly over the sound of the multitudinous tone textures made by the variegated instrumentation of his ensemble.
The rippling harmonics of the piano of Ben Lewis [on that very track] and the almost string-like harmonics of Mr Roberts’ saxophone melds in eloquently with the liquid form bass line melody produced by both pianist and bassist Clark Sommers. Together the musicians tread softly on the polyrhythms that his, rumble and roll of the sticks of drummer Jay Sawyer.
For the title track [and “Momentum” before that] the ensemble injects the beloved mélange that bubbles over from the leader’s spirit into a broodingly percussive rumbling groove – shared by Mr Sawyer and percussionist Victor González – all this to conjure the mighty roar of the barril of Puerto Rico, egged on by the pizzicato harmonics of Mr Sommers’ contrabass.
It bears mention – to pick up from the reference made earlier to the strings-like ability of Mr Roberts’ musicianship – that in his solo on this track, he summons harmonics that certainly sound as if he were playing glorious double-stops on a violin or a viola. All the while, Mr Carrillo’s tone soars, elegant and bright as he seems to reach the rarified realm of spirituality in music.
There is much more to cheer about – from the maturity and eloquence of Mr Carrillo’s compositions to the exquisite ensemble playing – notably on “Crazy, Stupid Fine”, which is introduced by some dazzling pizzicato harmonics [again] by Mr Sommers’ contrabass. This is just to lay a rich and entirely unpredictable harmonic foundation to the music that follows.
This music features a considerable degree of balance and integration of melody, harmony and rhythm; in composition and improvisation… And there is also, markedly, a judicious sculpting of the long-limbed and storied traditions of African-influenced music. Finally each musician brings his considerable gifts and marked singularity of voice, all of which is then holistically blended into this repertoire, superbly captured by sound-engineer Vijay Tellis-Nayak and the inimitable Rich Breen, who mixed and mastered this fine music.
Tracks – 1: Momentum; 2: Fire & Ice; 3: Bliss Point; 4: Urbanessence; 5: Crazy, Stupid Fine [bass intro]; 6: Crazy, Stupid Fine; 7: Poor to Rico; 8: Up the Down Staircase; 9: Justice & Mercy [for Bryan Stevenson]; 10: Fly by Night; 11: Sublime [for Roy Hargrove]
Musicians – Tito Carrillo: trumpet; Troy Roberts: saxophones; Ben Lewis: piano; Clark Sommers: basses; Jay Sawyer: drums; Victor González: congas
Released – 2022
Label – Origin Records [ORIGIN 82859]
Runtime – 1:17:27
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