AMBROSE AKINMUSIRE RETURNS WITH MARCH 11 RELEASE OF “the imagined savior is far easier to paint”
December 12 2013
On March 11, trumpeter and composer Ambrose Akinmusire will return with the release of the imagined savior is far easier to paint, an impressive and expansive new album that broadens the palette of his firebrand quintet with the addition of guitarist Charles Altura, the OSSO String Quartet, and vocalists Becca Stevens, Theo Bleckmann, and Cold Specks. Akinmusire’s quintet features saxophonist Walter Smith III, pianist Sam Harris, bassist Harish Raghavan, and drummer Justin Brown—a close-knit group of longtime friends and frequent collaborators that breathes a remarkable collective identity.
the imagined savior is far easier to paint delivers on the promise of Akinmusire’s widely acclaimed Blue Note debut When The Heart Emerges Glistening, which Nate Chinen of The New York Times named his #1 album of 2011. The New Yorker has called him “a thrilling young trumpeter and astute bandleader [who] has a unique spark in his playing.” On the new album—which Akinmusire produced himself—he subtly shifts the focus away from those thrilling trumpet solos to his compositions (Akinmusire wrote 12 of the album’s 13 tracks) while still leaving ample room for the band to stretch out and improvise.
Hearing vocals and lyrics set to his music was a different experience for Akinmusire, who often writes elaborate storylines and unspoken characters as inspiration for his instrumental compositions. With each of the vocal songs Akinmusire gave the vocalist the sketch of an idea and allowed them to flesh out lyrics based on that idea. Stevens returned both the music and lyrics for “Out Basement (ed)” while Bleckmann and Cold Specks set lyrics to Akinmusire’s music on “Asiam (joan)” and “Ceaseless Inexhaustible Child (cyntoia brown),” respectively.
The track listing for the imagined savior is far easier to paint is as follows:
1. Marie Christie
2. As We Fight (willie penrose)
3. Our Basement (ed) words & music by Becca Stevens
5. Memo (g. learson)
6. The Beauty of Dissolving Portraits
7. Asiam (joan) words by Theo Bleckmann
8. Bubbles (john william sublett)
9. Ceaseless Inexhaustible Child (cyntoia brown) words by Cold Specks
10. Rollcall for Those Absent
11. J.E. Nilmah (Ecclesiastes 6:10)
13. Richard (conduit)
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Born and raised in Oakland, California, Ambrose Akinmusire (pronounced ah-kin-MOO-sir-ee) was as a member of the Berkeley High School Jazz Ensemble when he caught the attention of saxophonist Steve Coleman who was visiting the school to give a workshop and immediately heard promise in the young trumpeter. Coleman eventually hired him as a member of his Five Elements band, embarking on a European tour when Akinmusire was just a 19-year-old student at the Manhattan School of Music. After returning to the West Coast to pursue a master’s degree at the University of Southern California, Akinmusire went on to attend the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz in Los Angeles where he studied with Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and Terence Blanchard.
2007 was a pivotal year for Akinmusire, most notably winning the prestigious Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition from a panel of judges that included Blanchard, Quincy Jones, Herb Alpert, Hugh Masekela, Clark Terry and Roy Hargrove. That year he also won the Carmine Caruso International Jazz Trumpet Solo Competition and released his debut album Prelude…To Cora on the Fresh Sound label. He moved back to New York City and began performing with the likes of Vijay Iyer, Aaron Parks, Esperanza Spalding, and Jason Moran. It was also during this time that he first caught the attention of another discerning set of ears, those of Bruce Lundvall, President of Blue Note Records.
Akinmusire’s Blue Note debut When The Heart Emerges Glistening was released in 2011 to rave reviews. The Los Angeles Times praised his “chameleonic tone that can sigh, flutter or soar,” adding that “Akinmusire sounds less like rising star than one that was already at great heights and just waiting to be discovered.” DownBeat described his playing as “spectacular and not at all shy—muscular, driving, with a forward sound, pliant phrasing and a penchant for intervallic leaps,” concluding that ”clearly something very special and personal is at work here, a vision of jazz that’s bigger than camps, broader and more intellectually restless than blowing sessions.”