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September 2017 Issue
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John Raymond

Foreign Territory
(Fresh Sound/New Talent)

The title of trumpeter and flugelhornist John Raymond’s sophomore release is something of a misnomer. In fact, the landscape of Foreign Territory will strike most jazz fans as extremely familiar. Stylistically, Raymond’s material is very much in the tradition. And were it not for its up-to-date sound quality, the album could pass for a release from the ‘60s or any decade thereafter. As such, it will serve as an aural Rorschach test for listeners. Some will love it because it’s so reminiscent of the work created by great performers from the past. Others may resist its charms for the very same reason.

The similarities certainly aren’t accidental. Accompanists include pianist Dan Tepfer, bassist Joe Martin and venerable drummer Billy Hart, whose playing remains first-rate as he enters his mid-70s. Raymond has crafted a set of originals for the session — supplemented by a ripe cover of the late trumpeter Kenny Wheeler’s “Mark Time” — that draws upon classic precursors, sometimes literally. But while “Deeper” is built on the chord patterns at the heart of Irving Berlin’s “How Deep Is the Ocean?” Raymond’s variation is subtler and more idiosyncratic than most, especially during Martin’s extended showcase.

As with “Deeper,” the title of “What Do I Hear?” practically dares listeners to glean its origins. Some will notice traces of the oft-performed “I Hear a Rhapsody” within the number. But Raymond’s solo is more about evoking the composition’s essence than duplicating it — although it’s a close call at times.

Nods to Horace Silver on “Rest/Peace” and to Lee Konitz on “Adventurous-Lee” are never less than pleasant, and the title track features fine interplay between Tepfer and Raymond. But the album’s highpoint, “Chant,” is a rumbling meander of a tune that defies expectations. It actually qualifies as foreign territory. —Michael Roberts

© 2017 JAZZIZ Publishing. All Rights Reserved.

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