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Jason Palmer (Trumpet): Take a Little Trip: Jason Palmer Plays Minnie Riperton

Album Notes

Trumpeter Jason Palmer pays homage to legendary soul singer Minnie Riperton on 2012's Take a Little Trip. Riperton, who died from breast cancer in 1979, was a highly gifted vocalist and cancer awareness spokesperson whose 1974 album Perfect Angel, produced by Stevie Wonder, is a classic of the decade. Riperton's music often incorporated jazz sounds and even featured such crossover jazz artists as flutist Hubert Laws, keyboardist Joe Sample, and pianist Ramsey Lewis. Consequently, her music is deep with harmonic and melodic material for an artist like Palmer to explore. Here, he reworks a handful of Riperton's songs, including such classics as "Lovin' You" and "I'm a Woman," into expansive yet intimate jazz numbers that both celebrate the source material and deconstruct it. Joining Palmer are guitarist Greg Duncan, pianist/Rhodes keyboardist Jake Sherman, bassist Edward Perez, and drummer Lee Fish. While the songs here are not "cover versions" by any means, Palmer does take care to evince how Riperton, with her unique five-octave range, sang them. For example, Palmer even plays Riperton's trademark falsetto fall at the end of the melody line of "Lovin' You." Of course, he does so in his own way, bringing out his burnished, gentle tone and measured phrasing. Furthermore, while Palmer clearly respects Riperton's music, he is not afraid to reconfigure these songs, most often rethinking the rhythm and tempo in inventive ways. Listen to how the bass, and not the drums as in the original, sets up the funky tempo to 1975's "Adventures in Paradise," allowing Palmer to take an extended exploratory improvisation before the full rhythm section comes in. The result is an album that, while showcasing a respect and deep of knowledge of Riperton's music, is first and foremost a forward-thinking jazz album. This won't be surprising to anyone familiar with Palmer's work either as a solo artist or a supporting player, as he's been to such artists as saxophonists Grace Kelly and Greg Osby. An intelligent, highly adept improviser, Palmer represents a new breed of 21st century jazz musicians including such contemporaries as Ravi Coltrane, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Mark Turner, and others, who set their egos aside and take a thoughtful, intellectual, and technically adept approach to the music. Which isn't to say this album comes off as a cold, academic exercise. On the contrary, what's so great here is how well Palmer walks the line between romantic slow-jam R&B and harmonically challenging modal jazz improvisation. In that sense, the album brings to mind the '70s/'80s work of Herbie Hancock sideman trumpeter Eddie Henderson. A few songs, such as the ballad "I'm in Love Again," originally a duet with Michael Jackson from Riperton's posthumous 1980 album, as well as "Inside My Love," with its sense of ruminative, sensual isolation, even recall the introspective '70s avant-garde jazz sound of Italian trumpeter Enrico Rava. From the album's cover shot (a cheeky re-creation of Riperton's 1974 album Perfect Angel featuring Palmer in overalls) to the creative and unexpected ways in which he has reconfigured the material, Palmer's Take a Little Trip is a joyful ride. ~ Matt Collar


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