Trumpeter Thomas Marriott moved back to Seattle after the requisite New York stint, where he worked with Maynard Ferguson's Big Bop Nouveau band, the Chico O'Farrill Orchestra, and vibraphonist Joe Locke. Back on west coast home ground, he connected with the Seattle-based Origin Records, where he released ten top-notch albums as a leader, including Individuation (2005), Crazy: The Music Of Willie Nelson (2008)Constraints and Liberations (2010), and East West Trumpet Summit (2010), a teaming with fellow trumpeter Ray Vega.
Marriott's previous releases reflect what he and his bands do live: take risks and create excitement. Romance Language, his eleventh release for the Origin Records label, reins this approach in, with an attempt to showcase "the simple beauty of a well-played melody." With this set of gorgeously executed ballads, he could not have been more successful at that attempt.
The band is a perfect conglomeration. Marriott on trumpet and flugelhorn, joined by drummer John Bishop and bassist Jeff Johnson - the Origin Records house rhythm section guys - vibraphonist Joe Locke, from Marriott's New York days, and Ryan Cohan on keys and programming (more on Cohan later).
Most any artist in any format tries to create some form of beauty. Romance Language, with its focus on the melodies of ten well-chosen (sometimes surprisingly chosen) tunes, offers up a transcendent tranquility and purity of approach that glows with a lovely and understated allure.
Pop songster and soundtrack composer Randy Newman's "Dexter's Tune," from the 1990 Awakenings (Columbia Pictures), opens the album, walking a line between melancholy and hopefulness. Also included are two tunes from the pen of vibraphonist Locke; one from the disc's co-producer Cohan, one from Stephen Sondheim, another from vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson, guitarist Pat Metheny and more. Then the closer, a surprise: Harold Arlen's "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." Each tune shaped and produced flawlessly.
Now, back to Ryan Cohan, who, as well as playing keys, provides the lush-but-subtle orchestrations and the "software instrument performances and programming." The sophistication of his contribution is understated but immense. Some of the post-recording accentuations of Creed Taylor's CTI Records label (often unfairly maligned) of the late '60s come to mind, with the translucent sweeteners and transformative and soothing string-like backdrops.
All those words, and no mention yet of Marriott's horn-playing. So let's go: straight at you, relaxed, pure-toned - open horn or muted - and spot-on in the rendering of the simple beauty of the melodies. His strongest recording to date.