"I was born with a mission, a program given to few," sings Abram Wilson at one point on Jazz Warrior, an album with the not-entirely-novel program of mixing jazz, hip-hop and R&B. Wilson wrote these words, as he wrote almost all the words he sings and raps on Jazz Warrior, and unfortunately they summarize the failings of the album: they don't quite sound natural, they lack a clear point and they overstate what case there is.
Wilson came to album-leading fame as a trumpeter, not as a vocalist, lyricist or MC, and his efforts in the noninstrumental realms are competent at best. He shows off a decent rap flow on "Dark One," but his rhyme on the title track singsongs itself to death. Songs like "Supernatural," meanwhile, rely almost exclusively on strange near-bromides like "It's so safe floating away/In space." His voice lacks amplitude, but it has a certain crystalline clarity that works well with intimate guitar-driven arrangements like "You Wouldn't Know" and his cover of "Golden Lady," even if on the latter Wilson stays way too close to Stevie Wonder's original to do anything but remind us of it. On rowdier tracks, Wilson struggles to be heard over the grooves laid down by pianist Andrew McCormack, bassist Neil Charles and drummer Shaney Forbes, sometimes managing the feat only with production tricks.
Wordless tracks like "Monk," a hot bop fest with a punchy head that draws some joyful soloing from Wilson, make me want to hear more of his jazz writing and playing; one hopes he'll put down the mike and pick up his trumpet for his next record.