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Hugh Ragin: Feel the Sunshine

Next time you’re in the Denver, make it a point to go see trumpeter Hugh Ragin. A veteran who’s worked and recorded with modernists Roscoe Mitchell, David Murray and Andrew Cyrille, Ragin has the chops and imagination to impress the stodgiest of moldy figs. On his latest release Feel the Sunshine (Justin Time), Ragin plays inside, outside and downright funky. The opening “Caravan” begins with Tani Tabbal’s rollicking drum solo, which sets up Assif Tsahar’s pitched tenor wail. Ragin then enters with a crackling intensity and plays long lines punctuated by shouts and assertive, in-your-face statements that build momentum and swing like mad. By contrast, the 13-minute title track is a simple, gentle and trancelike melody built around a major chord. It captures the feeling and color of first light after being up all night. On “Hugh’s Blues,” Ragin demonstrates his technical prowess without showing off, and his “Gulf Coast Groove” hits it funky and tough, like Les McCann doing one-armed push-ups. “Master Mind” is a three-minute piece of texture and skittering sound, while the closing, unaccompanied solo trumpet piece “Say Goodbye” is heartfelt, beautifully played and sounds totally free. Simply masterful.

Originally Published