In this painstaking project, Arturo Sandoval reconstructs three classical and 16 jazz trumpet performances by masters of the instrument, from Louis Armstrong to Wynton Marsalis. Tribute, not originality, is his goal. Sandoval reproduces the notes, sound values and, for the most part, spirit of players as stylistically and temperamentally varied as Roy Eldridge and Chet Baker, Bix Beiderbecke and Maynard Ferguson, Fats Navarro and Harry James. One can only imagine the study, concentration, woodshedding and experimentation with instruments and mouthpieces that went into imitating so wide a range of styles.
Most of the tracks are virtual copies of the original recordings. Sandoval duplicates the solos in arrangements meticulously transcribed mainly by Ed Calle. The accuracy is particularly striking in Cootie Williams' "Concerto for Cootie" with Duke Ellington, Beiderbecke's "At the Jazz Band Ball" and the Miles Davis-John Coltrane "'Round Midnight." Sandoval even replicates, complete with Cuban accent, Bunny Berigan's vocal on "I Can't Get Started." He can't resist correcting the tiny flaw in the terminal high D flat of Berigan's trumpet solo. Sandoval sings more or less like Chet Baker in "My Funny Valentine," but in what seems to be a new trumpet solo, not Baker's, Sandoval is closer to Miles Davis than to Baker. On flugelhorn, he does a lovely job with Freddie Hubbard's solo on "Up Jumped Spring" from the 1981 version on Hubbard's Born to Be Blue album on Pablo. Sandoval observes original tempos in all tracks but King Oliver's "Dipper Mouth Blues," which is taken considerably faster. He plays both Oliver's and Louis Armstrong's parts. The classical pieces in honor of Rafael Mendez, Timofei Dokshizer and Maurice Andre are a less daunting proposition; there's no improvisation to copy. Still, it is challenge enough to achieve Mendez's bravura in "La Virgen de la Macarena" and Andre's precision in the Thilde concerto.
What's the point? Why did Sandoval go to so much work to reproduce perfection? Because he can, I suppose. Few trumpeters could handle it. Then, there is the matter of homage; according to his liner notes, Sandoval genuinely admires his models. Aside from enjoyment, this repertoire adventure has two listener benefits. One is that the superb recording quality discloses ensemble detail muddied by primitive technology in some of the early originals, notably the Oliver and the Beiderbecke. Another is that Sandoval fans who buy this CD may be motivated to go back and discover the men who inspired their inheritor.