Sunday, September 18, 2011

CD Review – Surrender, by Jeff Oster

I’m not a trumpet guy, but I like good music regardless of the instrument, and this album had my ears entranced from the first track to the last.

Like me, most people might be put off by a trumpet album because the instrument is usually associated with the very exclusive, traditional jazz playing of Dizzy Gillespie and Wynton Marsalis.

However, Jeff Oster is more in tune with the cool fusion of trumpet icons Miles Davis and Herb Alpert, the latter of whom is paid tribute to on the standout track, “Essence of Herb.”

Oster lays his trumpet, flugelhorn, and synthesizer tones over hip-hop and techno backbeats programmed by co-composer and sound designer Bryan Carrigan. The result is an intoxicating blend of jazz, new age, and urban styles.

The album also features subliminal vocals by Oster that give the music a shadowy edge, with some brightness provided in the form of more prominent vocals from Diane Arkenstone.

What makes Oster’s playing, and ultimately his music, accessible is that rather than blow off as many notes as possible per second, as is the case with standard jazz trumpet playing, he coaxes and conjures, much like a snake charmer. Oster uses his horns in service of the melodies and themes rather than showboating, giving the music more depth and scale.

With trippy numbers like “All That Matters,” “Você Quer Dançar,” “Nikki’s Dream,” “Essence of Herb,” and “Beautiful Silence,” Surrender is as near-perfect as an album can get.

My only major complaint – at just over three minutes, “Essence of Herb” is too short!

--Raj Manoharan

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