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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Don Mather, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf, Glyn Pursglove

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Say It Plain

Unity Music DIG 137



  1. Giant Steps
  2. Say It Plain
  3. The Burning Sands
  4. Haley's Passage
  5. Dedicated to You
  6. Put on a Happy Face
  7. Con Alma
  8. Jnana
  9. Young at Heart
  10. I've Never Been in Love Before
  11. I'm Glad There Is You
  12. Pay Me My Money

Scotty Barnhart - Trumpet, flumpet
Clark Terry - Trumpet, vocals (track 12)
Wynton Marsalis - Trumpet (track 7)
Todd Williams - Tenor sax, soprano sax (tracks 1, 3, 4, 8)
Marcus Roberts - Piano (tracks 1, 3, 8)
Bill Peterson - Piano (tracks 2, 6, 9, 10, 12)
Lindsey Sarjeant - Piano (track 4)
Ellis Marsalis - Piano (tracks 5, 11)
Bruce Barth - Piano (track 7)
Rodney Jordan - Bass (tracks 1-6, 8-12)
Greg Williams - Bass (track 7)
Leon Anderson Jr. - Drums, whistle
Rick Lollar - Guitar (racks 2, 4, 12)
Herlin Riley - Tambourine (track 2)
Etienne Charles, Marion Felder - Percussion (track 7)
Jamie Davis - Vocals (track 9)

First impressions can be misleading. When I first started listening to this CD, I was disconcerted by the shambolic opening of Giant Steps. It made me think that Scotty Barnhart must be one of those unknown jazzmen who lure good musicians to play with them for their recording debut. The opening track starts with a noisy, out-of-tune rendition of John Coltrane's classic composition (with someone blasting on a whistle), and it continues in a fairly anarchic manner.

However, further reading put me right about Scotty Barnhart. This is his first album as a bandleader but, far from being an unknown beginner, he has played in the Count Basie Orchestra for 17 years, and he is Professor of Jazz Trumpet at Florida State University. He has even written a book called The World of Jazz Trumpet.

He arranged all the dozen tunes on this disc, and wrote or co-wrote half of them. He is actually a pretty fine trumpeter. So the version of Giant Steps must either be a joke or (most likely) an attempt to capture the wild atmosphere of old New Orleans. The subsequent tracks are more straightforward and certainly more disciplined, and illustrate Scotty's ability as both trumpeter and arranger. He has surrounded himself with a starry line-up of fellow musicians, including such great names as Clark Terry and Wynton Marsalis (albeit only on one track each). Wynton's father, Ellis Marsalis, appears on a couple of tracks.

The title-track has a funkily soulful feel about it, which may refer back to Barnhart's childhood experiences in an Atlanta church (where, incidentally, he was christened by Martin Luther King Jr.). Scotty's solo on The Burning Sands is suitably fiery, and Marcus Roberts contributes a remarkably exhilarating piano solo. In Haley's Passage, Barnhart plays the flumpet - a cross between a flugelhorn and a trumpet. Guitarist Rick Lollar is featured to advantage on this track.

Con Alma uses infectious Latin percussion to accompany an intriguing conversation between Barnhart and Wynton Marsalis. Jnana takes us into bebop territory, underlining Scotty's possible debt to Clifford Brown. Young at Heart has dark-brown but dubiously-pitched vocals from Jamie Davis but the tune is saved by Barnhart's expressive trumpet.

On some tracks Scotty is accompanied only by his excellent rhythm section, notably on a hair-raisingly tearaway version of I've Never Been in Love Before. Mind you, Scotty Barnhart is not faultless. Despite its beauty, his original ballad Dedicated to You has uncertain intonation. And he fumbles the theme statement of Put on a Happy Face. But most of his playing is distinguished both by technical brilliance and a sweet trumpet tone that seldom jars (although he occasionally aims at the ceiling and hits your eardrums).

The CD ends on a comical high, with Clark Terry doing one of his Mumbles-like bluesy vocals and playing briefly in his unique manner. With this album, Scotty Barnhart shows that he embraces all kinds of styles and moods. The sheer variety of the repertoire is one of the album's many delights.

Tony Augarde 

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