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Brad Upton Quintet: Black Orchid

On Black Orchid (Black Orchid Music BOM001; 72:44), the Brad Upton Quintet in places hits just the dramatic, atmospheric tone it seems to search for. Trumpeter Upton has an introspective style which lends itself well to moody introspection-a voice used to great effect when the compositions lean towards either fusion trips (like “I Adore You,” with its breathtaking solo flights and neat bass-doubles-trumpet melodic figure) or small-scale intimate pieces (“Moondream,” which counters Upton’s long, meditative lines with Mitchell Long’s pretty acoustic guitar texture). The band is more than competent, moving through tight changes on the dramatic “For Jaco,” which builds to a heady, offbeat workout, and the evocative “Windhorse,” which molds a seductive trumpet line into almost a spiritual call to the road. The anomaly here comes in ballad mode, when slowburn grooves become slightly lethargic and ordinary (album opener “Groove II” is an example). These few instances feel like commercially driven tack-ons to an otherwise interesting record.

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