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Ryan Kisor: Point of Arrival

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When Columbia Records dropped Ryan Kisor, the label’s loss was Criss Cross’ gain. The little Dutch company does not have the Sony giant’s distribution, but listeners devoted to eternal values in jazz improvisation will want to seek out Kisor’s second Criss Cross CD. I have heard no jazz trumpeter under 30-make that under 40-with a more stimulating combination of conception, tone, articulation and the ability to create long solo lines with logic and continuity. If there has been on record lately an invention with more purity and exuberance than Kisor’s up-tempo blowing on the changes of “Just in Time” in a piece retitled “Better Late Than Never,” I have missed it.

Ted Panken’s liner notes quote Kisor in his admiration for Art Farmer, Clifford Brown, Kenny Dorham, Freddie Hubbard and Woody Shaw. The examples of those trumpeters are evident not in imitation but in method and approach. As a case in point, something of Farmer’s fluidity and lyrical use of intervals attaches to Kisor’s playing on “The Best Thing for You Is Me,” but we are hearing original musical thinking in the construction of the solo. His work on drummer Willie Jones III’s unusual composition “Jessica’s Theme” and on pianist John Webber’s ballad “The Lonely Hour” is quite unlike that of any other trumpeter. The same can be said about his playing throughout the album. Jones, Webber and pianist Peter Zak are Kisor’s fine rhythm section. His 21-year-old brother, Justin, joins him for a trumpet duet on “Sir Lancelot,” sounding like a budding Ryan Kisor.

Those who have heard the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra know that on any given evening, Kisor is likely to be the most musical soloist in the band. This CD confirms that impression and further establishes Kisor as one of the most important players of his generation.