As Neil Tesser’s liner notes explain, the original idea behind Trumpet Story – the new album from The Bill Warfield Big Band – was to celebrate the trumpet by “writing a suite of big-band compositions for trumpet soloist” focusing on the contributions of icons of the instrument. Warfield, a fine trumpeter in his own right, decided that rather than taking the lead himself he would write for a different trumpeter, one he had worked with before and whose talents were legend: Randy Brecker.
While originally a four-movement suite, the current album grew into something a bit different, celebrating not only the trumpet but a whole range of Warfield’s musical influences. Three of the suite’s original sections are retained, and a selection of compositions by some of these other influences arranged by Warfield fills out the disc. While the focus is still on the trumpet, the current arrangements try to set the instrument in a broader musical context.
The album opens with the funky “When Janie Takes the Stand,” an edgy piece that resurfaces again to close the set in an (edited) airplay track. Brecker’s solo work is complemented by solos from Vic Juris on guitar and Tim Sessions on trombone. Herbie Hancock’s “Speak Like a Child,” a splendidly lyrical piece which appropriately features pianist Mike Eckroth, follows. The piano, now played by Art Hirahara, introduces Warfield’s beautiful “A Window That Shows Me the Moon.”
“Theme for Malcolm” is a Donald Brown composition with some sweet solo work from Brecker and Mike Migliore on the alto sax. Warfield himself does the solo work on Philip Sparke’s “Flowerdale,” a mood ballad with some majestic passages. Brecker’s “Sponge” gives some idea of the trumpeter’s compositional skills. Two more pieces by Warfield, “Carol,” written for his wife, and the haunting “In the Land of Chad and Barbie,” plus a 16-minute take on Joe Zawinul’s “Pharaoh’s Dance” round out the album.
Trumpet Story is big band music at its finest. Randy Brecker and Bill Warfield make a combination that’s hard to beat.