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July/August 2001

Hugh Ragin Trumpet Ensemble
Fanfare and Fiesta
Justin Time Records

Directing an ensemble comprised of four trumpeters-himself, Dontae Winslow, Omar Kabir and James Zollar-plus rhythm, Ragin offers an enjoyable treatise on the state of the modern jazz trumpet on Fanfare and Fiesta. As an added bonus, flugelhorn great Clark Terry augments the ensemble on two cuts.

In spite of the potential for screechiness, the performances never degenerate into mindless pyrotechnical display. While the individual trumpeters' influences may be all over the map, there is such good humor evident in the ensemble (thanks largely to Bruce Cox's stimulating drumming) that an anything-goes atmosphere prevails. Still, one never loses sight of the fact that the trumpet is an extremely tough and demanding instrument, and to play it with such carefree abandon-as all the participants do, seamlessly and in concert with one another-is a real accomplishment.

Terry is great on "Spacemen," an obscure but very hip humorous number in which he reprises his Professor Jive character, showing that humor has a place in music as long as it does not insult the intelligence of the listener. Making Fanfare and Fiesta must have been a dream come true for Ragin, who composed four of the eight selections.

Originally published in July/August 2001
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