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January/February 2004

Russell Gunn
Mood Swings
HighNote Records

In between installments of his controversial Ethnomusicology series, trumpeter Russell Gunn records hard-bop sessions for the High Note label, under the production of Cecil Brooks III. Mood Swings is Gunn's fifth High Note release, but it's his first organ date, and this time he enlists Brooks as both producer and drummer. We also hear from Eric Johnson (not the fusion god) on guitar and Radam Schwartz, a frequent Brooks collaborator, on the Hammond B3 organ. Gunn signals his intent-pure, straightahead jazz-by leading off with three late '50s and early '60s covers: Donald Byrd's "The Injuns" (based on the equally un-p.c. "Cherokee"), Benny Golson's dark ballad "Park Avenue Petite" and Horace Silver's "African Queen." The album closes with another item from the hard-bop cellar, Lee Morgan's "Twice Around." In between we hear a Gunn original called "S. Crib," based on "Confirmation" changes; a straightforward, in-the-pocket reading of "Night and Day"; a minor-key 3/4 original by Brooks called "Mood Swings"; an absorbing ballad rendition of "I'll Close My Eyes"; and the Gunn-penned "Blues to Lee," which directly precedes the Morgan cut.

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Carl Posey

Russell Gunn

The message? That a young trumpeter with an undying passion for hip-hop can turn around and make what is perhaps his most idiomatically conventional jazz disc to date. There's much to admire in that, and many moments of horn brilliance to savor. Gunn is particularly rough and ragged on "S. Crib" and "Blues to Lee," stating the latter theme in duet with Brooks before the band comes in, cooking. Johnson boasts a bred-in-the-bone organ-trio guitar sound, with plenty of early-Benson treble.

Originally published in January/February 2004
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