by Chris Barber, Jazz Views 

Chris Klaxton: trumpet; Taylor O’Donnell: vocals; Mark Small: tenor sax; Kendall Moore: trombone; Mike Effenberger: rhodes; Tim Jago: guitar; Sam Weber: bass; Michael Piolet: drums; Moe Pope: rapping.

The title of this collection is ‘Collage’, which implies a collection of musical styles and approaches. While the second and bonus tracks differ from the other pieces, the majority of the collection presents an exciting set of contemporary bop-inspired compositions.  The musicians (except for the bass) also featured on the ‘Starcode’ session and this familiarity brings a tightness to their playing.

The second track, ‘Love Gone Wild’, is a setting for a poem by Cody James Laplante (see for some of his artwork and poetry).  The after-hours feel of the piece would not be out of place on the Tom Waits / Crystal Gayle soundtrack to ‘One from the Heart’ and Taylor O’Donnell draws the perfect balance between regret and ennui in her beautiful singing.  The bonus track is a remix of a track from Klaxton’s first collection (‘Starcode’) featuring Boston rapper Moe Pope.

Klaxton teaches at University of Southern Maine and has been a student of Terence Blanchard (among others) as well as travel manager / valet / assistant / friend to Clark Terry.   You can hear the phrasings of Terry in some of Klaxton’s playing (as well as the harmonic sense of Blanchard) but it is clear that Klaxton has assimilated and worked through these influences to develop his own sound.  His lightness of tone is elegantly complimented by O’Donnell’s vocal phrasings on some of the pieces.  Klaxton is an impressive trumpet player with a surety of touch and an approach to composition which has a distinct blend of a jazz tradition with contemporary touches. The other players provide excellent support, with Mark Small’s tenor sax playing ranging from gentle to blistering across the pieces and the guitar and piano providing colour and texture across the set.

This CD provides an excellent example of developments in contemporary jazz. Klaxton and his colleagues work through post-60s jazz styles, particularly bop and the Chicago sound of the 70s (e.g., the artists around the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musician), and develop a strong sense of their own identity in the pieces.  The CD is dedicated to the memory of Terry (who died in February last year) and Laplante (who died in April last year).  Like ‘Starcode’ there is an exploration of loss and mourning in the pieces but these are never maudlin. Rather the pieces seem to be a fight against the lines in the ‘Love Gone Wild’ lyrics in which (following a one-night stand) the parting lovers might “…by harsh morning light…/ erase each other from memory”.  As Klaxton notes, the pieces ‘reflect on growing up, loss and letting go’.  The mixture of lamentation and celebration in all of the pieces ultimately provides a sense of optimism and hope.

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