Three years ago, when the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz medal he was awarded was still shiny and new, Ambrose Akinmusire  shocked many with a debut recording that reached far beyond bebop and its traditions. To many, Akinmusire is the brightest beacon on trumpet, the sharpest in a few decades. On his Blue Note debut he continues to emphasize ensemble work over showmanship and loose song structures over tight themes. His unorthodox midtempo compositions play out as little more than ambiguous sketches. Each musician finds a motif and goes with it, which in some cases means the bass of Harish Raghavan or Walter Smith III 's tenor saxophone dominates a performance rather than Akinmusire. His ballads are more traditionally reflective; an opportunity to create an exchange in solemn tones or exhalation, as he and the band does on the album's fine closer, "Tear Stained Suicide Manifesto." Akinmusire has chosen to challenge listeners, exploring free territory where Smith squeaks and squawks his way into the wilderness. He sets up the experience with the set's opener, "Confessions to My Unborn Daughter," a strength-building exercise in which the musicians find their place and get their collective bearings before taking off for the unknown.
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