Alexander Brown is a truly gifted trumpeter. The Cuban-born Canadian, of African Cuban heritage plays with breathtaking honesty. There is a great unquenchable fire in his “voice” and the manner in which he plays seems to fan that fire. He dallies over notes somewhat and this creates a kind of elongated effect, which when notes are strung into even unfinished phrases and longer lines creates a gentle swinging that creates that fanning effect. His intonation is forthright he makes notes expand as they emerge from the bell of his horn. These notes flare and heat up the air around them and this, in turn, creates a great deal of warmth in the room. It also affects the musicians he plays with; alto saxophonist, Luiz Deniz, for instance, becomes a different player when he is around Mr. Brown. The saxophonist breathes hot air into his alto saxophone and becomes akin to a mythical dragon. Through all of this Alexander Brown retains his fine sense of lyricism. His “hot” playing should not be misconstrued as burning up the melodies. On the contrary Mr. Brown imbues them with sensuousness that would lead the listener to believe that his music is made of women, who dance in the shadows of his songs.
Mr. Brown’s album The Process showcases all of those qualities about him. The title suggests that he is setting out to find a means to meld his African-Cuban roots into the metaphor of jazz. The manner of his playing is eminently suited to this imminent discovery. Consider the very first song of his recording, “The Process”. Here Mr. Brown’s fiery horn is enrobed by the counterpoint of Mr. Deniz’s saxophone. And while the trumpeter is developing his improvisations the saxophonist is quietly following the trumpet’s snaking path. Up and down the registers it darts and rushes impelled by Mr. Brown’s superb embouchure so that when the alto horn is asked to follow suit, Mr. Deniz is ready to undertake his own sojourn. Through all of this the drummer, another Cuban-born Canadian, Amhed Mitchel is digging around the wellspring of polyrhythms; feeling around for a truly extraordinary trajectory for the pulse of the song. Piano and bass, meanwhile, mix in the delightful idioms of jazz and here it would seem then, that Alexander Brown is well on the way to revealing his process.
The trumpeter now fired up by his wonderful opening salvo, drives on and shakes things up a tad, with the swaggering “Ciudad de Sombras” which rocks gently the foundations of rigid metres somewhat more with its ululating electric piano and a fine solo from Todd Pentney. Not to be missed is the subtle drumming behind the piano, by Mr. Mitchel. “Woody and Freddy” is a wonderful elegiac portrait of two trumpet masters who, it is also clear from Mr. Brown’s playing, are his grand masters and mentors. This is a heartfelt homage and is exquisitely executed by the trumpeter, who, in this case plays flugelhorn. Here too there are intimations of his rhythmic inventions that are beautifully executed by his rhythm section. Bassist Paco Luviano is particularly magnificent on this chart with a rollicking solo and some fine all-round bass playing. On “New Latin” Alexander Brown reveals a puckish side as he rips into the melody, using extremely fast and odd metre to make his point. Hilario Durán, who accompanies Mr. Brown, is highly adept at this, and he plays masterfully as does another maestro, the bassist Roberto Riverón. On “Guajira en Cha cha cha” the swaggering guajira, which turns into a cha cha cha is brightly played and with great sensitivity. This is also where Alexander Brown’s process of melding, or in this case, melting genres is showcased beautifully.
Now, while Alexander Brown makes a strong case for his musical process to change the way his music is heard, this record might be considered to be a startling beginning. Somehow, it sends a clear signal that the best is yet to come.
Track List: The Process; Ciudad de Sombras; Oscilaciones; Woody and Freddy; New Latin; Presencia; Guajira en Cha cha cha; Carnival do Brazil.
Personnel: Alexander Brown: trumpet and flugelhorn; Amhed Mitchel: drums; Paco Luviano: acoustic bass; Todd Pentney: piano; Luiz Deniz: alto saxophone; Hilario Durán: piano (5, 7); Roberto Riverón: electric bass (5); Rosendo “Chendy” León: percussion (5).
Released – 2013
Runtime – 53:48