Given his exemplary technique and imposing stylistic reach, traits previously displayed on an impressive series of studio sessions, it’s not surprising that trumpeter Sean Jones consistently puts the wind in his band’s sails on this St. Louis concert recording—especially during a spiritual finale inspired in part by “Amazing Grace.” And yet, thanks to a cohesive series of quartet and quintet performances that boast reedman Brian Hogans, pianist Orrin Evans, bassist Luques Curtis and, in rotation, drummers Obed Calvaire and Mark Whitfield Jr., the music lacks neither energy nor ingenuity when Jones steps aside.
Hogans and Evans serve the bandleader particularly well, contributing weaving harmonies, brash contrasts and stirring improvisations, along with a pair of tunes that ultimately rank among the album’s highlights: “Piscean Dichotomy,” Hogans’ multi-hued offering; and Evans’ corkscrew-themed “Doc’s Holiday,” a willfully off-kilter conflation of blues, funk, swing and swagger. Jones, adroitly doubling on trumpet and flugelhorn, makes splendid use of both instruments. He can’t conceal the delight he takes in coaxing a symphony of expressive tones and smears from his horn on “The Ungentrified Blues,” any more than he can resist the challenge of navigating waves of angular, boppish intervals on the spirited Blakey homage “Art’s Variable.” Flugel-imbued lyricism, meanwhile, enhances the album’s soulful allure. Due to frequent, sometimes jump-cutting shifts in tempo and dynamics, which build to an orchestral swell on the closer, “BJ’s Tune,” the rhythm section’s mettle is tested throughout, ultimately underscoring its versatility and collective strength.