The music of “Voicemail,” which opens The Mugician – from trumpeter Keyon Harrold – is beautiful. But as accompaniment to inspirational thoughts from Harrold’s mother, a jazz-quintet-plus-five-background-vocalists-and-a-string-quartet lays it on awfully thick. Using a voicemail is clichéd, too. Unfortunately, “Voicemail” sets the tone for Harrold’s album. It tries too hard and yields little we haven’t already heard.
Similarly, the track behind Guy Torry’s politically/racially charged spoken word on “When Will It Stop” has appeal, particularly Nir Felder’s funky guitar and Harrold’s overdubbed trumpet and flugelhorn. But Torry has the spotlight and he’s artless—a lecturer. More ponderous still is Andrea Pizziconi’s “Broken News,” which doesn’t so much comment on contemporary issues as list them, or rub one’s nose in them.