Marcus Printup goes the tribute album route on Homage, saluting 11 trumpet kings who have influenced and inspired him. It’s the kind of project that must be hard to resist for young veterans like him who have had the time to absorb those influences and want to give something back to their idols. The challenge is to unify diverse styles and sounds into a personal statement, and to avoid creative holding patterns.
The 45-year-old trumpeter is at his best with songs in his hard-bop wheelhouse, including Freddie Hubbard’s buoyant, funkified “Mr. Clean” and Lee Morgan’s bright, streaming “Mr. Kenyatta.” Printup also fares well with a pair of ballads: Roy Hargrove’s wistful “Liquid Streets” and Woody Shaw’s Mingus-like “Theme for Maxine,” which draws heat from tenor saxophonist Greg Tardy’s reliable intensity, a fire that splits the difference between John Coltrane and Wayne Shorter.
Printup’s duo reading of “Weather Bird,” with pianist Aaron Diehl, inevitably falls far short of the historic recording by Louis Armstrong and Earl Hines; more pragmatically, it makes for an uneasy lead-in to the Miles Davis classic “Nardis.” As a whole, Homage feels a bit routine following A Time for Love, Printup’s unabashedly romantic effort featuring harpist Riza Hequibal (now his wife). But he’s such an assured soloist and he has such a spirited band behind him (including bassist Corcoran Holt and drummer Alvin Atkinson), the album’s pure pleasures outweigh its shortcomings.