REVIEW: Richard Boulger – Blues Twilight

I was going to start this review by writing something lame about how it sometimes helps, in terms of pushing a career, if a musician who plays a brass instrument has brass – uh – cojones, but I guess that could be said about any performer. After all, if you’re not ready to put yourself out there in every way, then your chances of success are going to be diminished.

But if you’re talking about brass, then Richard Boulger certainly qualifies in a number of ways. On his new album, Blues Twilight, he not only plays a blazing trumpet but he also composed all the pieces, acts as his own producer and has his own record label too.

But jazz lovers shouldn’t let all that discourage them from taking a listen to the talented Boulger, who might have flown a little below the radar but is a very respected and experienced artist. With past associations that range from the Allman Brothers to trumpet legend Freddie Hubbard (who has endorsed him), he’s ready to spotlight his own post-bop sound.

He’s joined here by a number of good musicians, including David Schnitter on sax, Dennis Irwin on bass, and the late John Hicks on piano. That basic group is supplemented on various tracks by some additional talents and it proves to be a potent mix of musicians, but there’s little doubt who’s the star. Although there are some nice solos from all, Boulger dominates.

He’s a powerful trumpeter with technique to spare, and demonstrates it on the title tune of the album, which is also one of the best. His trumpet interplay with Schnitter’s sax, combined the with addition of guest saxophonist Kris Jensen, is sparkling music in anyone’s book. Another good listen was “Letting Go,” which establishes Hicks’ piano as a solid base for the performances of the other soloists. Schnitter again shines through as Boulger generously gives him room to roam before joining back in later.

A softer sound was provided by the aptly-named “Tears,” which features nice keyboard work from Hicks and a muted trumpet from Boulger in a tribute to victims of the 2004 Asian tsunami. Also on the subdued side was an unusual pair of pieces; “From The Night” and “For Souls Past” are both short, mournful laments that feature Boulger playing alone. Touching and unusual.

One of my favorites was the album closer, “Time Flies,” which features some of the strongest ensemble work here, and provides a fitting end to what is a solid jazz listening experience. You won’t go wrong if you take a closer look at this one.

Track listing and sound samples available here.

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