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Valery Ponomarev: Beyond the Obvious

Valery Ponomarev chose an appropriate title for his latest release, since the trumpeter comes from a hard-bop perspective-an “obvious” style that he takes one step beyond the norm as an authoritative soloist, writer and arranger. Ponomarev assembled a pianoless quartet for this session, and the band-Don Braden (tenor sax), Martin Zenker (bass), Jerome Jennings (drums)-responds to the liberation with performances that don’t need the instrument to ground them.

No less than three tracks are built on blues structures. The opening “You Dig, I Hear You, You Know What I Mean, Etc.” finds Ponomarev alone blowing choruses of long, melodic lines, quick ideas and high shrieks over Zenker’s double stops and Jennings’ rolls. He adds a minor interlude to the theme of Lee Morgan’s staccato “Party Time” that brings added dimension to that 12-bar structure. The stop-start theme of “From Cat to Nat” combines a 16-bar A section with a bridge and a key change in the final section.

Zenker adds to the melodic makeup of “Chelsea Bridge” and Ornette Coleman’s “The Blessing.” Newcomer Jennings steers the group so well that Ponomarev’s description of him as “the next Art Blakey” might not be mere hyperbole.

Nothing obvious here, except the quality of the performance.

Originally Published