Teranga, the new album by trumpeter Jon Faddis, is full of twists and turns and mood swings. It’s also a lot of fun. This is due not only to Faddis’ skill but to his smart choice of musicians, as well. His regular quartet is here, as are several impressive guests who help elevate these sessions above the everyday.
Let’s start with the album’s centerpiece, the 12-minute title track (“Teranga” is a Senegalese word that loosely translates as “hospitality”). The tune has pan-African and Middle Eastern flair with a strong backbeat, moody flute playing by Frank Wess, and infectious African percussion courtesy of Alioune Faye and Abdou Mboup. Midway through, the group abruptly changes up the groove, and the percussionists dig in even deeper. Faddis puts his chops on full display—shredding notes, tearing up his solos, and switching course as new ideas occur to him. The dialogue among the percussionists and drummer Dion Parson is astounding. The whole thing is reminiscent of the obscure group Hasidic New Wave, and rightly so: Faye played with HNW. In any case, it’s a track that demands repeat listening.
Yet the rest of the album merits equal attention. Faddis is a remarkably wide-ranging musician. He can whisper through his trumpet, he can pierce your eardrums, or he can sustain a note ad infinitum, a la his mentor Dizzy Gillespie. And he’s as comfortable playing straightahead bop (“Hey, Lalo!”) and ballads (“Waltz for My Fathers & Brothers”) as he is bossa nova (“Laurelyn,” a quiet duet with guitarist Russell Malone) and the blues (“The Fibble-Ow Blues,” featuring the flugelhorn and nonsensical vocals Clark Terry). Faddis sure knows how to put together an enjoyable record.