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Ben Neill: Goldbug

Trumpeter Ben Neill is also a direct descendant of Davis’ electric aesthetic. And not just because he plays the same instrument as Davis did. On Goldbug (Antilles, 314-557 085-2, 73:48), Neill re-casts Davis’ electrified trumpet in the digital age, replacing a wah-wah pedal with an electronically enhanced axe that triggers various sound banks, replacing Davis, Sly, and Jimi’s freefunk with electronic dance beats and textures. A cool idea, and there are some good moments, as on “Looking Last,” the chest-pounding “Tunnel Vision,” and the sludgy “It’s Only Money”. But the drum’n’bassy tracks are so tightly constructed, and lushly layered, Neill’s trumpet often takes on an outsider-ish quality, rapping loudly on the music’s exterior but rarely gaining entry. Which is kind of the way Davis’ electric forays were perceived back in the day. But while his collective improv was not of its time, Neill’s muse is firmly of this one-fairly good electronica, yet nothing in the “Tricky” category. Then again, with all the subpar mess floating around nowadays there’s no shame in merely being good.

Originally Published