Jazz people and baseball fans have something in common. Both love a hot rookie who blows into town and lights up the league. Enter Cyrus Nabipoor. He is the jazz equivalent of a first-year pitcher who throws 99 m.p.h.
His trumpet chops are deadly and his penetrating brass tone is classically pure (except when he turns it dirty). When you learn that he graduated from Loyola University in New Orleans, and that the Marigny Opera House is a historic venue in that city, you assume he is the next trumpet badass in a long Crescent City line. The first track, “What Is This,” is straight-ahead NOLA hard bop.
But it’s not that simple. While the strong sidemen here are New Orleans-based, it turns out that Nabipoor was born and raised (and still lives) in Portland, Oregon. And he’s only straight-ahead on Tuesdays. His résumé includes rock, funk, experimental improvisation, and electronica. Those genres shape the mindset of Nabipoor’s acoustic music.
Take “Cellmates.” It starts as a jaunty little ditty but Nabipoor slides off it into abstraction; tenor saxophonist Brad Walker crashes in and incites wild ensemble cacophony. “Hipody” sustains a drone from George Wilde’s guitar that leaves Nabipoor free for outbreaks of asymmetrical lyricism. (Walker is also powerful on this piece.) ”Huckleberry Madness” is heavy metal jazz. “There Is a Light that Never Goes Out,” an elliptical Smiths song from the ’80s, is harmonized in jazz terms and transformed by trumpet drama.
Nabipoor’s strength is that it is never possible to anticipate his next move. Melodies implode before your eyes. Beautiful held notes shatter into jagged fragments. Long ascents take sudden hairpin turns. He is a creative new trumpet player with the nerve to record his debut album live and spill his guts in public.
If he’s not Rookie of the Year, he’s in the conversation.