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A brilliant, faultless collection

This is a uniformly excellent offering of trumpet numbers

Blowing My Horn:
18 Timeless Trumpet Pieces

Rs 95

Here's another from a series of albums each devoted to a theme or an instrument. This one does justify its selection in that each number has a strong trumpet, even if it's not the most important instrument. How, for instance, could Red Rodney, a musician Charlie Parker picked up after first his peer Dizzy Gillespie and then his junior Miles Davis gave up on him, be the star of Parker's Si, si? Yet Rodney was never entirely in the shade when supporting Parker's alto sax, and he certainly isn't here.

On the other hand, Dizzy Gillespie playing trumpet with his own big band on a composition (not, however, his own!) called Dizzy's business is bound to have been the sole star of this piece. Like Si, si, it is a prime example of classic be-bop, with the pyrotechnics of sharp transitions between short notes.

The opening piece contrasts with these two: it's Fiesta in brass by a classic swing band called, fittingly if a little unoriginally, Roy Eldridge and the Swing Trumpets. Eldridge was the greatest trumpeter between Louis Armstrong and Dizzy Gillespie, who acknowledged a debt to him, a paragon of all that was best in swing age improvisation. Here he's joined by two other great swing trumpeters, Joe Newman and Emmett Berry, who both worked with the greatest improvising big band of them all, Count Basie's. The result is a series of brilliant trumpet solos each with its distinct tone, but it's more than I can do to identify who's who! The pianist, incidentally, sounds a lot like Basie himself and takes the first solo.

A piece that bears the distinct stamp of the most famous big band is I'm true to you by the Fabulous Ellingtonians, evidently a group formed from the Ellington orchestra. It's the contrasting colours that are most striking here, with Rex Stewart -- a man who could produce the roar of a lion from a trumpet -- sharing the honours with the famous Johnny Hodges alto sax, a trombone and the piano.

These are just a few of the highlights of a uniformly excellent collection. From a mature Louis Armstrong to a be-bopping Miles Davis, from the Basie alumnus Harry "Sweets" Edison teaming up brilliantly with the Ellington alumnus Ben Webster (on tenor sax) to the hard-bopper Nat Adderley -- and more -- there's nothing that can be faulted. Not even Harry James, a brilliant soloist who worked with Benny Goodman but turned mostly to non-jazz swing when he first started his own band. Here he's leading his own band, but soloing strongly and letting his pianist do so even more strongly.


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