Trumpeter Guy Barker's fifth solo effort is an unashamed homage to 50s mainstream jazz...
Peter Marsh 2002-11-20
Guy Barker gets around a bit; much in demand as a session player, his name's found its way into the address books of the likes of George Michael and Sting, while he's also appeared with Carla Bley, Stan Tracey and Ornette Coleman.
While all this hanging around with pop stars hasn't attracted the kind of sniffiness from the jazz police that say, Mike Brecker or David Sanborn have put up with in the past, Barker's solo recording career has been an erratic affair. Two albums for Verve (one a Mercury Prize nominee) kicked things off promisingly, though subsequent albums (a 'with strings' session and a soundtrack) have proved pleasant diversions more than anything else.
Whatever, Soundtrack sees the trumpeter back in the septet format on the small but perfectly formed Provacateur label, with a fine band including tenor player Denys Baptiste and altoist Rosario Giuliani.
Like his mate Wynton Marsalis, Barker is a player and composer concerned with respecting jazz tradition but not content with mere revivalism (though some may disagree). Here though, he's fashioned a more obvious tribute to the past.
Echoing variously Charles Mingus, Gil Evans and on occasion Gerry Mulligan, the pieces have an unsurprisingly filmic quality, given the title. The album's centerpiece is the half hour mini-suite "Sounds in Black and White", a homage to 50's film noir jazz soundtracks. With each instrument taking a different character (eg tenor=boy alto=girl) Barker fashions an evocative mini suite that former employer Stan Tracey would be proud of, full of funk, humour and tenderness.
Both saxophonists are good value, with Giuliani mixing Johnny Hodge's blues soaked cry with a spot of edgy bopspeediness, and Baptiste's big, woody tone and rich vibrato transporting the willing listener to some years B.C. (Before Coltrane).
But it's Barker's playing that's the main feature here; technically flawless, generously expressive with a luxurious, fat tone that pours out of the speakers like honey. His Gil Evans-esque take on "Nature Boy" is especially effective, with the trumpeter offering a long cool drink of a solo, while "Queen of the Night" (based on a Mozart piece) is a tour de force of slurs, purrs and trills.
Barker'sundoubted ability could take him anywhere for his next move; let's hope Sting gives him enough time off to come up with something soon...
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