The notion of forming a group with the intention of playing completely improvised music is something that Las Vegas trumpeter Walt Blanton says has always fascinated him. While the concept of performing free-form jazz is nothing new, it is a bold move for an artist, like Blanton, not usually associated with the genre.
After experimenting with sounds and concepts for about a year, Blanton, along with pianist Tony Branco and drummer John Nasshan felt the time was right to roll tape on their daring musical experiment. The resulting seven tracks, recorded in one day during the summer of 2006, comprises Monuments; an adventurous musical joy-ride full of unexpected twists and turns.
Blanton is a powerhouse of a trumpeter who can play with lyrical restraint, culling notes from the middle register, and having fun with short melodic spurts, as he does on "Lester Rides Again" and "In And Out." There are moments, however, when brilliant tone and commanding technique take over, as on "Life Force." For the majority of the disc, it is Blanton who plants the initial musical seed for each piece, creating themes with noticeable traces of post-bop and contemporary mainstream jazz, singed with an abundance of melancholy and satire.
The interplay between piano and trumpet is astonishing. Branco seems to anticipate Blanton's every move, accentuating the nuances of the trumpeter's rhythmic momentum. The pianist enjoys dancing along the outer realm of tonality?with Don Pullen-like fervor?on the title track and serves up elongated, patiently developed rumblings on the lengthy and multi-faceted "Life Force."
Always colorful and rhythmically adventurous, Nasshan maintains an incessant drive, keeping things grounded and swinging. His subtle cymbal work on the serene "Song Without Words" melds easily with Branco's light-as-air clusters.
A conceptual winner, void of unnecessary posturing, Monuments is a fun time had by three exceptional musical minds.