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Terell Stafford: Fields of Gold

Terell Stafford often registers below the radar when people think of today’s leading jazz trumpeters. Maybe it’s because he’s known mostly as an educator or sideman than a solo artist, but whatever the case may be, it’s a misfortune, because Stafford possesses a vibrant command of the instrument. Steeped heavily in the hard-bop tradition, Stafford has a crackling tone and impeccable rhythmic timing that recalls ’60s-era Freddie Hubbard. And as evident from his latest album, Fields of Gold, you can add remarkable composer and skillful bandleader to that list as well.

With Antonio Hart’s edgy alto sharing the front line with Stafford and drummer Rodney Green steering the quintet with fierce velocity, the ensemble ignites a sparkling flair similair to Bobby Watson and Victor Lewis’ Horizons. The record even opens with Lewis’ blistering “Hey, It’s Me You’re Talking To,” which was a staple for that band. Here, the rhythm section of Green, bassist Kiyoshi Kitagawa and pianist Bill Cunliffe catapults both Stafford and Hart’s fiery solos into the stratosphere. An equal infectious vibe is created on Hart’s spry, Latin-tinged “Flashdance.”

Horizons, however, isn’t the only guidepost for this ensemble: Stafford’s tenure with the legendary organist Shirley Scott is well-illustrated in several compositions. On songs like Stafford’s “Ms. Shirley Scott” and a delightful waltz-treatment of the traditional inspirational chestnut “His Eye Is on the Sparrow,” Cunliffe switches from piano to organ and imbues the proceedings with an effervescent yet bluesy ethos. While it’s clear from Stafford’s authoritative tone and hot-blooded solos that he’s the leader of this date, he shows tremendous confidence and wisdom to give his fellow bandmates plenty of room to shine both instrumentally and compositionally, which makes this sleeper a golden find indeed.

Originally Published