When I reviewed a new album by singer Jaimee Paul a while back, I mentioned that her husband, trumpeter Leif Shires, was part of her instrumental backing. But a new album starring Shires himself, titled What A Wonderful World, brings his horn into sharper focus and proves that his wife is not the only talented performer in the family.
It’s another Green Hill release and although it’s actually Shires’ second solo album, it’s his first for a major label. The young Nashville-based trumpeter – who also picks up the flugelhorn once in a while – has spent the last few years honing his skills in a number of ways. He has most recently appeared with the Latin jazz group Salvador in addition to teaming up with Jaimee in various live venues.
For this album he’s fronting a group of musicians that starts with veteran guitarist Jack Jezzro, who also produced. Contributors include David Huntsinger on keyboards and Jim White on drums, along with bassist Jim Ferguson and percussionist Eric Darken.
Shires does a good job – sans vocal, of course – on the title track, a song most would associate with Louis Armstrong, but it would be wrong to assume that this is a Satchmo tribute album. In fact, Shires counts among his influences Miles Davis and Chet Baker, and he’s been compared to contemporary trumpet star Chris Botti.
Although he shows some improvisational talent, on this album he’s playing it pretty straight with a solid collection of pieces that are mostly traditional jazz standards, but with a few surprises thrown in. On the predictable side of things are “‘Round Midnight,” here given a nice interplay between Shires and Ferguson’s bass, and “Autumn Leaves,” with the trumpeter showing the love for his idol Baker.
Others that I enjoyed included “Tenderly,” and my favorite on the album, a Bossa Nova take on “Unforgettable,” which was – well – unforgettable. Surprises included a few newer pieces, among them Sting’s “Fields Of Gold,” and Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time.” Also nice was a haunting rendition of “Scarborough Fair” that not only features some of Shires’ best work but also showcases guitarist Jezzro.
A solid effort from Shires and his guys — recommended for traditional or contemporary jazz fans.