Ambrose Akinmusire
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Ambrose Akinmusire

New York City, New York, United States | MAJOR

New York City, New York, United States | MAJOR
Band Jazz Avant-garde


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"CD Review: When the Heart Emerges Glistening"

Anybody who caught the 28 year-old trumpeter’s impressive debut, Prelude: To Cora, three years ago, or his London gig with John Escreet round about the same time, or going further back, his debut with Steve Coleman, will know that the “coming man” has been coming for some time now. This new set indeed confirms a talent that is decidedly above the norm. He is also, like the aforementioned and his co-producer Jason Moran, a man happy to stride down a conceptual road less traveled.

One might point to the quite startling ‘My Name Is Oscar’ as proof positive thereof. The piece is nothing other than Akinmusire reciting fragments of a lament for a murder victim, Oscar Grant, over combustible yet airtight drumming from Justin Brown, but the combination of the voice and percussion, the excision of harmonic and melodic content, and the gaping holes left in the text are movingly eerie, a vivid metaphor for the brutal abruptness of the subject’s death. To a large extent, the song is a worthy centerpiece for the album but it is by no means the only highlight. What is apparent right from the disc’s opening salvo is that the sound that Akinmusire was developing on his previous release has evolved into an even stronger signature.

Generally speaking, that means mid or down tempo pieces with a brooding blend of baroque and black church harmony which the frontline horns enrich with themes that have an airy, often leisurely nobility to them. Akinmusire and Smith deliver potent, impressively measured improvisations but the set really stands out for the cohesion of the band and the leader’s strength of character. At this early stage of his career, Ambrose Akinmusire is already showing signs of being a major creative figure in the making, one who realises that the jazz aesthetic is as much about content as form, imagination as execution. - Jazzwise Magazine

"CD Review: When the Heart Emerges Glistening"

Happy day, it's another entry in the great-time-for-trumpets column. Ambrose Akinmusire's forceful outing is as noteworthy for the strength of the overall concept as for the individual accomplishments of its leader, head-turning as they are. - Downbeat

"CD Review: When the Heart Emerges Glistening"

ree-jazz’s appearance in the 1960s went right alongside the ‘sentiment’ of the times historically; - the idea of liberation from conformity and the conservative tides of the 1950s was ‘what was in.’ Free-jazz never faded away dramatically like some earlier jazz styles (namely dixieland, swing, etc.), but it’s popularity certainly peaked in the 1960s. But as with most styles, they return, and through exceptional and visionary trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, he certainly resurrects a style of jazz that hearkens back to the free-jazz of the 1960s that such greats as Ornette Coleman (saxophone), Cecil Taylor (piano), and even John Coltrane in his later years cultivated. No only does he hearken back, but he pushes the boundaries, making When The Heart Emerges Glistening always the ‘forward-thinking’ listen. Ambrose and his crew of spirited and gifted musicians (Walter Smith III, tenor sax; Gerald Clayton, piano; Harish Ragahvan, bass and Justin Brown, drums) make free-jazz sound as relevant in 2011 as it did in 1960. Even the creative title foreshadows the ‘listening feast’ that is ‘When The Heart Emerges Glistening.’

“Confessions to My Unborn Daughter” opens the album exceptionally, starting off with only Ambrose playing a cappella trumpet. Ambrose’s ideas are prodigious and make you ‘hinge’ onto his every note. Things grow even more ‘epic’ when the whole quintet of musicians is assembled: Smith’s tenor sax playing is extraterrestrial, Clayton’s piano playing spacey and genius, Ragahvan’s bass playing serves as the ‘buttress’, while Brown’s drumming is both melodic and metronomic. Filled with beautiful cacophony - a contradiction - “Confessions to My Unborn Daughter” is a brilliant way to open up an album that is filled with nothing short of thirteen tracks of genius.

“Jaya” keeps up the ‘free-jazz’ revival, keeping the listener’s attention easily. Pianist Gerald Clayton delivers some clever improvisations here, followed by superb alternating solos by Akinmusire and Smith. Much like “Confessions,” Akinmusire knocks this cut out of the park! “Henya Bass Intro,” which coincidently features Harish Raghavan on bass alone, foreshadows the mysteriousness of “Henya,” a track to contrasts the more over tone of the first two cuts. Here, balladry changes the mood of the album, but not without some surprises and unpredictability. “Far But Few Between,” a cut that might be considered more an ‘interlude’ (at just under two minutes) sounds as if it on the edge of ‘frenzy,’ hence contrasting any of the soothing calm of “Henya.”

“Regret (No More)” finds Akinmusire supported by Clayton’s tasteful accompaniments on the piano. Beautiful yet experimental, Akinsmusire incorporates numerous extended techniques to make “Regret” more than just a straight ahead performance. “Regret” may have more of a restrained tinge about it, but it is easily one of the album’s most valedictory performances. “Ayneh (Cora),” more of an interlude, follows. “My Name Is Oscar” is by all means shocking, featuring only drums and voice. Here, drummer Justin Brown is given plenty of space and time to express himself in an unexpected, yet brilliant listen. Vocally, there are interspersed spoken passages, with the most prominent being “my name is Oscar.”

After the percussive nature of “My Name is Oscar,” Ambrose opens up “The Walls of Lechuguilla” with some extraordinary sounds, all accomplished using extended trumpet techniques. After Akinmusire solos, once again a cappella, the cut breaks into one big cacophonous eruption, not completely unlike the opener. It may be hard to follow for those who appreciate more ‘straight-ahead’ jazz, but for the consummate enthusiast, it is nothing short of genius. The soloing is prodigious from both Akinmusire and tenor saxophonist Smith.

“What’s New” once more changes the mood, opting for a slightly more traditional sound, which proves to be a nice break from the more intellectually contrived numbers. “Tear Strained Suicide Manifesto” is powerful by all means, possessing an air of mysteriousness. It proves to be another ‘victory lap’ for the grandly talented musician. The album closes as mysteriously as it opened with interlude “Ayneh (Campbell).”

Essentially, When The Heart Emerges Glistening proves to be one of the most captivating jazz albums in recent times. Ambrose Akinmusire is able to revive free-jazz and transcend the boundaries of jazz on this fine effort. Never lacking in inspiration, When The Heart Emerges Glistening is - well - BRILLIANT!

- The Urban Music Scene

"On the Horns of Abundance: Jazz Festivals Resound"

A young trumpeter who was already making marks with Steve Coleman and Vijay Iyer before he graduated from Manhattan School of Music in 2005, Mr. Akinmusire is among the latest to put together a quintet that seems destined for much wider recognition. It’s limber, straight-ahead jazz with mystery and pop instincts that gets around most of the old, pervasive mainstream influences, both of trumpet playing and bandleading. Mr. Akinmusire — who in 2007 won both the Thelonious Monk Institute trumpet contest and the Carmine Caruso International Jazz Trumpet Solo Competition — is hungry for outside information. Lately he’s been inspired by vocalists and electronic music, raving about Joanna Newsom, the Dirty Projectors and Matmos. “I’m really hearing harp, and a lot of Ravel,” he said, talking about ideas for new music. “I’m getting into orchestration and timbre and form.” For his working band he has the benefit of old friends from college and high school: the tenor saxophonist Walter Smith III, the pianist Gerald Clayton, the bassist Harish Raghavan and the drummer Justin Brown. For his CareFusion festival gig, Mr. Clayton will be replaced by Jason Moran, and Mr. Smith by Mark Turner. For the last decade these have been some of the most original jazz musicians on the scene, and Mr. Akinmusire is climbing into their world by degrees. (Ben Ratliff) - New York Times

"Ambrose Akinmusire: Oakland Trumpeter Among Jazz's Rising Stars"

Ambrose Akinmusire is sitting on top of the jazz world,
trying to figure out if he's suited for the rarefied

Last month, the trumpeter from Oakland won the 20th Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Competition at
a star-laden event in Los Angeles by impressing a panel of trumpet royalty that included Clark Terry,
Terence Blanchard and Hugh Masekela. Open to musicians of any age who haven't released an album
under their own name, the competition is jazz's most prestigious showcase for rising talent, an event that
significantly boosted the careers of artists such as pianist Marcus Roberts, singer Jane Monheit and
saxophonist Joshua Redman. While Akinmusire has been gaining respect among jazz's most prodigious
improvisers since he was a teenager at Berkeley High School, he's feeling decidedly ambivalent about the
limelight's sudden glare.

"It's been crazy," says Akinmusire, 25, who makes his first Bay Area appearance since his L.A. triumph on
Sunday afternoon at the Jazzschool in downtown Berkeley. "I'm not a person who wants attention or
wants to be famous. When I got home to New York last week, my voice mail in-box was full. My MySpace
page was blown up. Record contract people and managers are starting to call me. I'm already a semihermit,
and this just makes me want to stay in. I'm taking a breath, figuring out what I want to do."

While he may shrink from renown, Akinmusire is poised and confident on the bandstand, a resourceful
player with a fat, crackling tone and a plethora of ideas. He's featured on keyboardist Alan Pasqua's recent
CD "The Antisocial Club," an electrifying fusion session inspired by Miles Davis' jazz/rock experiments of
the early 1970s. But Akinmusire's vision as a bandleader and composer won't be evident until the release
of his debut CD "Prelude to Cora," a sextet album featuring his working band with pianist Aaron Parks
(who took third place in last year's Monk piano competition).

For his Jazzschool concert, Akinmusire is playing with a quintet featuring the musicians who hired him for
his first gigs: saxophonist Howard Wiley and bassist Marcus Shelby. A meticulous planner, Akinmusire
started writing music for the event three months ago, while on the road with Macy Gray. Now he's refining
the material with Wiley and Shelby in mind, writing out intricate charts. It's a discipline he developed

during his two-year stint at the Thelonious Monk Institute in Los Angeles, where he studied with
acclaimed arranger/composers Billy Childs and Vince Mendoza.
"I love just coming up with stuff on the spot with these cats," Akinmusire says. "I'm tempted to do that.
But I'll probably write out a bunch of new tunes. I try to have very specific details, down to what the
accompanists do. I give the musician the charts with everything spelled out and they can interpret it. It's
the way I believe music should be. You're sort of guaranteed a certain percentage of what you want to hear.
I've always been the type of person who's overly prepared."
- San Francisco Chronicle

"FEATURE: An Auspicious Prelude"

Berkeley High alumnus Ambrose Akinmusire is widely
considered to be the best emerging jazz trumpeter in the world.
If you tell him so, he'll demur. A North Oakland native with
old-school manners, Akinmusire masks his intensity, to a
certain degree, with an easy laugh and soft-spoken demeanor.
At twenty-six, he's bicoastal with three mailing addresses (one
in New York, one in Los Angeles, and one in Oakland), but says
that's all just an accident. He's not the guy with the fedora and
the apartment on Park Avenue. He'll turn down a high-paying
gig if it doesn't pique his interest on a creative level. He makes a
point of being "not reallyextra jazzy with it."

But when you catch Akinmusire onstage, you get the real deal. As an artist he's quick,
meticulous, and extremely self-critical. He has such a refined ear that he can tell whether
moving a few inches toward or away from a microphone will make him a hair flat or sharp.
Last October he won the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition (Joshua Redman
won in 1991), then creamed everyone at the Carmine Caruso International Jazz Trumpet Solo
Competition a week later. Akinmusire says he learned about self-discipline and mastery from
watching Mike Tyson fight clips and reading the Tao Te Ching. He'll stay up until 4 a.m. at a
jam session, and then wake up bright-eyed three hours later. He's a monster of a musician
who never seems to meet his own standards.

Akinmusire attributes most of his success to a strict, no-nonsense upbringing in a rough
North Oakland neighborhood. His grandmother was a staunch Baptist who made sure the
family attended church every Sunday. His dad was a Nigerian immigrant, and his mother —
who raised Akinmusire by herself — worked for the Oakland Police Department. She kept his
schedule booked so he wouldn't have any time to get into trouble. He started piano lessons at
age four, took up drums in fifth grade, and switched over to trumpet because his mother got
tired of him banging on the wall. (She wanted Ambrose to play saxophone, but he said it had
too many buttons). In high school he was set up to be an overachiever: Eagle Scout; black belt
in tae kwon do; Berkeley High jazz band; rigorous practicing schedule. "I didn't have a free
day during the week," the trumpeter recalled. "Like, Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, tae
kwon do, Wednesday nights Boy Scouts, Sundays definitely church. Saturdays probably

All the work paid off. After high school Akinmusire got a full scholarship to attend the
Manhattan School of Music, and went on to a Masters program at the Monk Institute of Jazz
while studying concurrently at University of Southern California. Then came the Monk
competition, which catapulted Akinmusire — however grudgingly — to instant international
fame. "I'm not the type of person that stops," he said. "I'm always like, 'next, next,' because
the next week was the other competition." He wasn't counting on all the publicists and
potential handlers who would be blowing up his phone shortly thereafter. "You know what,
after this competition, man, people were calling me up and I got so involved in the business
aspect of everything. Like at least two or three months of my life and I was just so wrapped up
in it," the trumpeter said. "And then one day I went to do a gig and I was trying to play, and
the shit wasn't coming out. I was like, 'Fuck man, this is wack.' You know? I was, like, 'Man,
what have I been doing with my time?'"
So Akinmusire got back in the shed, and never quite emerged. He recorded this year's Cora — his debut as a bandleader — on the Spanish independent label Fresh
Sound, despite protestations from A&R reps who thought he should sign with a major. He's
currently leading three groups: his eponymous sextet; the B3 trio (with fellow Berkeley High
grad Michael Aalberg on Hammond organ); and a quartet called Stretch, which plays spur-ofthe-
moment sets, often with no count-off at the beginning. (At a recent gig, the members
played free for three minutes, then spliced two standards together.) Never a stickler for
tradition, the trumpeter has a real protean sense of what jazz can be. Björk, Imogean Heap,
and Aretha Franklin sit alongside an album of unaccompanied Bach cello suites in his home
CD collection. At a recent De Young Museum gig, he went from Duke Ellington's "In a
Sentimental Mood" to a really hip version of Michael Jackson's "I Can't Help It."
The meticulous recording process that birthed Prelude says a lot about Akinmusire's
character, and his approach. He recorded the album in one day, but nearly killed himself
doing multiple takes (all that circular breathing can cause a lot of pain for a horn player, he
said). It's a carefully-crafted album with mixed tonalities, challenging melodies, and a
melancholy, dream-like feel. In the liner notes, Akinmusire writes that the opening number
came to him in a dream, and another — the de - East Bay Express

"Review: Prelude to Cora"

New visions and colorful dreams emanate from
the horn and pen of trumpeter Ambrose
Akinmusire. You would expect the first place
winner of the 2007 Thelonious Monk
International Jazz Trumpet Competition to come
out with his horn a-blazing, voraciously showing
his chops. While he does have the honored award
and sharpened abilities, his debut recording,
Prelude: to Cora, is one that walks quietly yet carries
a huge stick of inspiring, focused and enlightened
music that is well beyond
his youthful expectations.

Like his contemporaries (pianist Robert Glasper, drummer Kendrick Scott
and guitarist Mike Moreno), Akinmusire's draws inspiration not just within
the jazz continuum, but also from his environment: urban and classical
persuasions, historical reflection and socially conscious motivation. An
example is heard on the audacious opening piece “Dreams of the
Manbahsniese”--with its construction and execution of melody, the
instrument arrangements, classically trained voice by singer Junko Watanabe
and the coloring of electronics. It's a conglomeration of new sounds for a
new millennium.

All of the music was composed by Akinmusire, with the exception of three
tracks, including the lone standard “Stablemates” by saxophonist Benny
Golson. Instead of the obligatory hip-funk-swing session, the compositions
are well-thought-out and thought-provoking. There are riveting pieces like
Aaron Parks' “Ghost Ship,” where Akinmusire's warm tone exudes both
melancholy and optimism; or the haunting, cinematic vastness of
“M.I.S.T.A.G. (My Inappropriate Soundtrack to a Genocide),” with soulwrenching
voice and wailing horns.

Though Akinmusire has burning chops (touches of Clifford Brown, Tomasz
Stanko and Terence Blanchard), he altruistically shares his light with the
other musicians, purposed towards the larger musical picture and revealing
his quiet leadership.

And speaking of the band, Akinmusire is also joined by other young
newcomers who donate stimulating performances. Chris Dingman's chilled
vibe work highlights the soulful “Aroca,” while Walter Smith and Logan
Richardson create fiery sax exchanges on “Dingmandingo.” Aaron Parks,
another bright pianist, joins Akinmusire in a wonderful duo on the swinging
“Stablemates,” both showing brilliance and a respect to the jazz masters of
the past. Last, but surely not forgotten, is the stalwart (and lively)
foundation of bassist Joe Sanders and drummer Justin Brown. This is an
exceptional debut from an unassuming yet extremely talented new voice. - All About Jazz

"CD Review: Prelude to Cora"

*****Believe the hype for once: here's a debut album of real
depth and originality. Trumpeter Akinmusire's hypermodern yet
shapely themes are not so much performed as lived and

breathed by a brilliant young group, mostly fellow alumni of the
Thelonious Monk Institute in Los Angeles. Pianist Aaron Parks is
already an international name and the others, including
Akinmusire, tenorist Walter Smith, vibist Chris Dingman and
drummer Justin Brown, will surely follow. Writing and soloing of
such freshness and conviction, delivered with a subtly authentic
pulse, will hearten those who still look to America as hub of the
art form it created - Evening Standard

"CD Review: Prelude to Cora"

One might expect Ambrose Akinmusire's debut CD to be a calling card display of pyrotechnics, going all out to dazzle with the technique that won the young trumpeter last year's Thelonious Monk Competition. But Prelude, as its title implies establishes a foundation upon which its gifted creator can build. The album is just
as much a shot across the bow, only one that deftly confounds rather than merely lives up to expectations.

Prelude is a virtual exercise in restraint and atmosphere, something like what Tomasz Stanko would create were he a child of 1980s Los Angeles rather than 1940s Poland. Airy and lyrical, Akinmusire's compositions are tethered by drummer Justin Brown spinning off into the occasional hip-hop beat, or Joe Sander's 70s funk-by-way-of Miles Davis electric bass. Akinmusire barely seems to acknowledge the "young hotshot" burden that he may carry on his shoulders, magnanimously willing to deflect off of himself and onto the able band he's gathered around him.

Terence Blanchard's influence show through, and not just in the way that Akinmusire carves a wide swath through the music with his round, scything tone, rushing fourth and shifting back with sudden, halting runarounds. But his writing is so expansive and colorful, it's only a matter of time before he follows Blanchard's lead onto the movie screens. As if to cleanse the palate following those epic orginals pianist Aaron Parks and the leader indulge in a playful burlesque of Benny Golson's " Stablemates" to close out the disc on a last-day-of-school vibe - Downbeat Magazine

"FEATURE: A for Ambrose"

For someone being hailed as one of the brightest jazz trumpeters of his generation, Ambrose Akinmusire seems rather relaxed about all of the hoopla. His casualness comes across not in cocky aloofness but in a congenial surprise. Perhaps, even more remarkable is that he doesn't see himself as a trumpeter. "The trumpet just happens to be the instrument that I express myself through, " he says " I think I would sound the same with whatever instrument- as clichéd as that might sound-is my objective."

He goes on to explain that he doesn't really listen to trumpet players. Instead he listens a lot to vocalists, specifically Bjork, and saxophonists to develop his melody-centric approach to playing. "I notice that the majority of trumpeters were limited by the trumpet; it's a hard instrument." Akinmusire says, "I wanted to play wider intervals. I didn’t want the instrument to be limiting just because it's a hard instrument. From that point on, I started practicing unconventional things."

Born and raised in Oakland, California to Ambrose Akinmusire from Nigeria, and Cora Campbell from Drew, Mississippi, the 26-year-old wunderkind began developing his own musical concept in 2000, while on tour with saxophonist Steve Coleman. He was only 18-years-old that year and fresh out of Oakland, California’s Berkeley High School. “Coleman really instilled in me the need for me to have my own musical concept,” Akinmusire recalls. “From that point on, I began thinking what I wanted to sound like. I knew that I didn’t want to sound like the typical trumpet player.”

Akinmusire’s pursuit of a distinguishable concept certainly worked to his advantage in 2007, when he took home the top prize at the Thelonious Monk Institute International Trumpet Competition. That same year, he also won the Carmine Caruso International Jazz Trumpet Solo Competition. In both competitions, he underscored his hearty town and improvisational prowess with an assured maturity, opting for mesmeric, singable passages that lock inside listener’s heads. “After those competitions, I felt like my playing was a little more validated,” he says, noting that he had already gigged with jazz renegades, such as pianist Vijay Iyer, trombonist Josh Roseman, and of course, Coleman, before entering those competitions. “Now I feel like my playing is take more seriously, I think people are more interested in what I’m doing” Adding more intrigue is Akinmusire’s splendid debut disc, Prelude to Cora (Fresh Sounds, 2007) which finds him leading a sparkling ensemble of fellow young guns: pianist Aaron parks, vibraphonist Chris Dingman, drummer Justin Brown, bassist Joe Sanders, vocalists Junko Watanabe, alto saxophonist Walter Smith, III. The noticeable empathy the ensemble affords the disc is attributable to the fact that Akinmusire has deep personal relationships with each member. “ I love playing with the people that I know off the bandstand. I don’t think that there should be a separation,” he says. “They are my friends we hang out outside of music I think that’s really important. I think that can be heard in the music.”

Akinmusire developed wistful sonic seduction on Prelude to Cora on which he buttressed his pneumatic modern jazz with subtle rhythmic textures that suggest electronic and hip-hp. Like his trumpet plying, his compositions such as the soaring “Hum Song (Skidrow Anthem)’ and the haunting “Ruby” strikes an emotional immediacy, because of their bracing melodies, cogent deployment of fecund ideas and group interaction. Funny thing is that he says that he hasn’t quite developed an approach to composing as he as to playing. “I find that works for me in terms of composing and writing about people and about events, just because people are so complicated and also so are events. You can talk about the actual event or things leading up to the event or the aftermath of the event; the same thing with people. I find that I need all of that to come up with a composition, “ he says.

That explains the intriguing titles of songs like “ Dreams of the Manbahsniese,” “Aroca” and “Ruby,” all of which are tone poems, written for his longtime girlfriend Shabnam; his mother, Cora; and his late grandmother Lillian Ruby Campbell, respectively. Akinmusire’s inclination of writing tunes, based upon events and people, plays a huge part in why he chose Benny Golson’s “ Stablemates.” I got a chance to meet Benny Golson and I asked him about that tune, “ Akinmusire recalls. “He told me that he wrote the tune at a gig when he was mad at his girlfriend. She came to the gig and he didn’t want to get off the bandstand to talk to her so he could just stay on the bandstand, he wrote that tune.” In the disc’s liner notes, Akinmusire wrote: “This album represents everything that happens before a beginning/” When asked to clarify of if he see Prelude to Cora as a bona fide debut, he explains that the tunes were written several years before the got a chance to reco - Jazzwise Magazine


As a Leader
When the Heart Emerges Glistening (2011)/Blue Note
Prelude to Cora (2007)/Fresh Sounds

As a Sideman:
Walter Smith III, III Criss Cross Jazz, 2010
Walter Smith, Live in Paris, Blue Geodiscs, 2009
Dave Binney, Third Occasion, Mythology Records, 2009
Linda Oh, Entry, 2009
John Escreet, Consequences, Posi-tone, 2008
Esperanza Spaulding, Esperanza, Heads Up, 2008
Alan Pasqua, The Anti-Social Club, Cryptogramophone 2008
Walter Smith, Casually Introducing Walter Smith III, Fresh Sounds, 2005
Josh Roseman, Constellations Live: in Vienna, Accurate Records, 2005
Vijay Iyer, In What Language, Pi Recordings, 2004
Aaron Parks, Shadows, 2001
Steve Coleman, Resistance is Futile, Label Blue Records 2001


Contact: Mariah Wilkins Artist Management LLC
315 East 86th Street, Suite #2EE
New York, NY 10028
Phone: 212.426.3282
Fax: 646.290. 6180

Reno di Matteo
Anteprima Productions



By the time the lone standard “What’s New?” arrives with a wink 11 tracks into trumpeter-composer Ambrose Akinmusire’s tour de force Blue Note debut When The Heart Emerges Glistening, the song’s title has become a rhetorical question. The unneeded answer: Everything. Akinmusire has delivered nothing less than a manifesto, a Search for the New Land, a personal statement of such clarity and vision that it’s bound to turn heads around towards this startlingly fresh young talent.

Co-produced by Akinmusire and his label mate and mentor Jason Moran, the album’s 12 songs (10 of which were composed by Akinmusire) feature the 28-year-old trumpeter’s young quintet (tenor saxophonist Walter Smith III, pianist Gerald Clayton, bassist Harish Raghavan, and drummer Justin Brown), a close-knit group of longtime friends and frequent collaborators that breathes a remarkable collective identity. The New York Times wrote that the quintet “seems destined for much wider recognition,” and described their unique sound as “limber, straight-ahead jazz with mystery and pop instincts that gets around most of the old, pervasive mainstream influences, both of trumpet playing and bandleading.”

The Los Angeles Times recently named Akinmusire one of their 2011 “Faces to Watch,” and offered this descriptive of the quintet’s recent LA performance: “Akinmusire and his band demonstrated a remarkably fluid, adventurous interplay and patiently imaginative way with melody that sounded as steeped in the music's history as it was hard-wired with the sound of something new. With a chameleonic tone that can sigh, flutter or soar, Akinmusire sounds less like a rising star than one that was already at great heights and just waiting to be discovered.”

The discovery of Ambrose Akinmusire (pronounced ah-kin-MOO-sir-ee) has been a slow and steady process. Born and raised in Oakland, California, it was as a member of the Berkeley High School Jazz Ensemble that Akinmusire first caught the attention of a discerning ear. Saxophonist Steve Coleman was visiting the school to give a workshop and immediately heard promise in the young trumpeter, eventually hiring him as a member of his Five Elements band and embarking on an extensive European tour when Akinmusire was just 19.

The experience proved life-changing. Coleman—considered by many to be the spiritual godfather of the current creative jazz scene—challenged Akinmusire on and off the stage. “Ambrose, what’s your concept?” Akinmusire remembers Coleman asking him on a train ride through Germany. “Concept? I’m 19, I don’t need a concept. It’ll just come one day,” shrugged Akinmusire, raising the saxophonist’s ire. “He really laid in on me. I’ll never forget it,” he recalls. “You’ve got to start thinking about it now,” Coleman told him. “Everything you don’t love, make sure that’s not in your playing.”

Akinmusire took the advice to heart, and returned to his studies at the Manhattan School of Music determined to discover his own voice. “When I got back to school I wrote a list,” he explains. “It was very specific, it had things on it like ‘I don’t want to be confined by my instrument’ or ‘I want to have a sound like a French Horn player.’ It had harmonic concepts on it. I posted it on my wall so every day I was reminded of it. It caused me a lot of trouble because if a teacher told me to do something and it didn’t really fit what was on that list I didn’t listen to them. It really made me learn who I was because I had to defend that every day.”

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, an experience that began to bring his quest into clearer focus. “I went from being the oddball to being surrounded by people who were just like me and having teachers that were stressing [individuality] like Terence [Blanchard], Herbie [Hancock], and Wayne [Shorter]. I learned a lot from Terence. He really got me to be 100% comfortable in the things I was hearing in my head. After the Monk Institute it was just me going for my own sound and my own concept.”

2007 was a pivotal year for Akinmusire. He entered and won 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 recording Prelude…To Cora on the Fresh Sound New Talent label. He moved back to New York City and began performing with the likes of Vijay Iyer, Aaron Parks, Esperanza Spalding, and Jason Moran, taking part in Moran’s innovative multimedia concert event In My Mind: Monk At Town Hall, 1957. 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.

“I've been following Ambros