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Melton Mustafa: St. Louis Blues

The South Florida-based trumpeter with the big band mindset is back for round two, this time in a bit more schizophrenic mode than last year’s Boiling Point disc. The opener offers scant evidence that this is a big band date in the traditional sense, as Mustafa puts the funk dumplings on the stove at a rather pedestrian boil. One is left asking how many times have we been down this street.

The first three tracks are in fact small ensemble grooves, the most rewarding being the Latin piece “Conquest,” while Mustafa’s Miles tribute is decent. The title track, a fantasy on “St. Louis Blues,” brings on the big band traveling back through the time tunnel roughly 50 years from the preceding tracks, straight to Kansas City. Then abruptly we’re transported by trumpet to the running of the bulls at Pamplona, back to a Mississippi River boat vocal, then a Clark Terry-like vocal language invention! Were the big band tracks done on the same recording session as the first three pieces? The record’s biggest rewards are from track four forward, particularly the Native American impression of “The Chant.” There is a refreshing optimism to this recording that ultimately makes it a winner, though a puzzler nonetheless.

Originally Published