Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Brad Upton Quartet: Lionheart

Brad Upton spent most of the ’70s in New York before relocating to Boulder, Colo. Lionheart, his fourth release on the Black Orchid label, is quite unlike Thomas’ disc: heavy on the reverb, with Eric Gunnison on keyboards, Eduardo “Bijoux” Barbosa on electric bass and Matt Houston on drums. This is one highly developed fusion band, marked by sensitive group dynamics, sophisticated harmonies and heartfelt improvisations. Upton displays remarkable range, control and creativity on both trumpet and flugelhorn. The pervasive R&B flavor will immediately repel purists, but there’s an advanced aesthetic at work here, elevating Upton’s electric jazz well above the “smooth”-thanks in large part to Gunnison’s harmonic savvy at the keys. An erstwhile colleague of another trumpeter from Colorado, Ron Miles, Gunnison plays for keeps throughout, contributing hip Rhodes textures and tasteful pads. The album’s high point is the modal and adventurous “For Tony Williams” (previous Upton discs have included “For Miles,” “For Jaco,” and “For Herbie”). Judging from Upton’s liner-note descriptions, the tunes are slightly misnumbered on the sleeve. A helpful hint: “Black Crown” occupies tracks four and five.

Originally Published