Ambrose Akinmusire has been on a steep upward trajectory since winning the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition in 2007. The trumpeter’s ascent was hastened by a stunning sophomore album, When the Heart Emerges Glistening, issued by Blue Note in 2011. More than proving his chops (though it did that job), the disc revealed Akinmusire as a composer and bandleader of vision and range.
Still, even his admirers might take a minute to warm up to the 31-year-old’s newly issued Blue Note follow-up, the imagined savior is far easier to paint—not because it’s a letdown, but because the ambition it reveals could seem daunting to someone who just wants to hear fierce blowing. There’s that, but you also get chamber-music strings, poetic singing, social commentary and free-floating ensemble intrigues. It all shows that despite his velocity, Akinmusire is in no danger of coasting.—Steve Smith
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