Marcus Printup is known to many as the fiery trumpeter adjacent to Wynton Marsalis in his Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. A longtime fixture in the band, Printup has cut his teeth swinging to big-band standards since 1993. But he’s just as powerful on a ballad, and indeed he has a history of leaning toward softer tunes, which suit his sound perfectly. Those balladry skills are well displayed on Gentle Rain, for which he’s backed solely by a harp, eloquently played by his wife Riza—a daring configuration that’s rarely been attempted in jazz.
The couple have been hinting at a duo record for some time now; Riza appeared on Marcus’ A Time for Love (2011) and Desire (2013), but both albums included additional instrumentation. With Gentle Rain, they conclusively prove that their musical chemistry lies in sheer romanticism. From the tender original “When He Embraced Me with His Eyes” to standards like “It Amazes Me” and “The Nearness of You,” they take equal time drawing out lush, colorful storylines. Yet there’s more to Gentle Rain than pure love songs, such as a wonderful rendition of the Thad Jones classic “A Child Is Born.”
Although trumpet and harp may not seem the most likely match, the Printups expose a striking beauty to the combination. Riza certainly sounds comfortable enough adding dreamy melodic layers to each song while Marcus robustly croons beside her. The title of the album is a perfect fit; listeners are taken down a smooth emotional path that ends just as it began, gently.