Friday, July 10, 2009

CD review: Scotty Barnhart’s Say It Plain

Posted By on Fri, Jul 10, 2009 at 1:57 PM

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Long time ago, back in the days of JazzCharlotte, a British PR agent gushed over the talent of trumpeter Scotty Barnhart and gave me a bootleg cassette tape to bolster her boasts. She was right about Barnhart, who was even more electrifying when he performed here live than he was on the shabby bootleg.

Now there’s finally a Scotty Barnhart CD for the world to hear, Say It Plain, and I feel like I’m divulging a secret that shouldn’t have been secret nearly so long. The lineup of guest artists who showed up for these 2008 recording dates – topped by cameos from fellow trumpet aces Clark Terry and Wynton Marsalis – is an accurate gauge of the high-grade straight-ahead jazz you’ll hear throughout. Keyboard giants Marcus Roberts and Ellis Marsalis also show up separately on five of the 12 tracks, Ellis at his silky best on the Jimmy Dorsey ballad, “I’m Glad There Is You,” Roberts most memorable on “The Burning Sands,” one of five Barnhart originals.

Wynton joins Scotty on Dizzy Gillespie’s “Con Alma,” while Terry blows and sings – in his trademark mumbledy fashion – on the closing track, “Pay Me My Money,” a freshly-minted Clark/Barnhart tune. Unity Music stablemate Jamie Davis drops in for “Young at Heart,” mellow payback for Barnhart’s contributions to the singer’s Vibe Over Perfection last year.

All it takes is a few bars of “Giant Steps” to be hooked on this release as Leon Anderson, Jr., opens up on drums and a ref’s whistle. Barnhart comes in on trumpet with Todd Williams overlapping on soprano sax, and suddenly you realize that Scotty has rearranged Trane’s hardbop classic into a festive New Orleans shuffle – with Roberts applying another twist later on with a stride piano solo. Occasionally, you do get samplings of what Barnhart’s core quartet/quintet sounds like. A taste of “Put On a Happy Face” provides all the joyous reassurance you need, with Barnhart blazing and pianist Bill Peterson sounding a little like Oscar.

None other than the esteemed Stanley Crouch pontificates in the album notes, and there’s a celebration of the new Say It Plain release up in New York this Saturday evening – at the renowned Blue Note Jazz Club, where Barnhart’s quintet is scheduled to make joyful noises at midnight. Yes, it seems Barnhart has arrived. I damn sure hope he stays.

Here’s a video of “Haley’s Passage” in a longer, less artfully mixed version than you’ll hear on the CD, but with the same sextet: Scotty Barnhart (flumpet), Todd Williams (soprano sax), Rick Lollar (guitar), Bill Peterson (piano), Leon Anderson, Jr. (drums), and Rodney Jordan (bass). Camera works sucks – you never get a good look at Scotty’s flumpet – but the music is golden.

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