Artists such as Miles Davis, Freddie Hubbard and Donald Byrd expanded the possibilities for jazz trumpet, infusing it with touches of R&B and funk. Trumpet player Butch Harrison cites Hubbard in particular as an influence, and further explores jazz fusion on What It Is, a collection of smooth jazz. While Harrison possesses trumpet chops, the album tracks focus more on his singing and lyrics.
What It Is starts promisingly with "Butch's Blues," a slinky jazz workout that features Harrison's soaring trumpet lines and an understated but soulful piano riff. But he tries to emulate other artists, such as on the title track, which sounds like a reply to Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On." "Freak-n-U" attempts to show Harrison's funkier side, with innuendo-filled lyrics: "Let me take you for a drive sugar/Baby you shift my gears," he croons. "So Afraid of Love" recalls old school slow jams, with harmonies that reflect Philly soul, but without lush arrangements.
Harrison fares best when not trying to replicate other artists, and lets his talent shine through. "Slip Away" sounds like '80s electro funk with a hint of groups like the Whispers. The catchy beat grabs the ear, along with a synthesizer-driven rhythm track and trumpet accents.
Too many tracks off What It Is, however, are nondescript, such as "Party Over Here," a hand-clapping tune that contains a funky horn solo, but little else other than "let's get down"-type lyrics. A fuller horn section might have given the track a needed lift. "When You Touch Me" channels Barry White with Harrison's low spoken-word delivery and lyrics such as "When you kiss me/Chills run down my spine and my heart beats double time/And I lose control of all my mind." Again, lines such as "you rock my world" abound, failing to brand the song as different from other slow jams.
Harrison clearly has talent, as the Seattle-based trumpet player has vast experience playing with a variety of Seattle-based funk and jazz groups. While he possesses a pleasant voice, it's his horn playing that distinguishes him from other smooth jazz artists. It would be interesting to hear him perform more fusion; instead, What It Is gives listeners all-too-brief glimpses of his jazz chops.
For more information, visit Butch Harrison's MySpace Music page.