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Ted Curson: Sugar ‘n’ Spice

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Ted Curson’s incandescent flame burns bright in this impassioned salute to bebop, the music that inspired the trumpeter to want to play jazz. The underrated Curson, it should be pointed out, is one of modern jazz’s true innovators. In the late 1950s, he was a key participant in the seminal probes of avantgardist Cecil Taylor. A year later, he and Eric Dolphy helped ignite Charlie Mingus’ tempestuous upheavals. In the mid-1970s, he led one of the era’s great small groups, a bop-based sextet at once open-ended and disciplined.

Here, in a congenial setting with pianist Michael Cochrane, guitarist Lenny Argese, bassist Calvin Hill, and drummer Bruce Cox, the trumpeter flies with a brio reminiscent of Clifford Brown. Also impressive is Curson’s “voice.” Even in his more abstract work, Tears for Dolphy (1964), for instance, the trumpeter has displayed a brassy yet warmly centered sound. It’s a sonic signature that continues to serve him well. Mixing standards like “Georgia” with originals such as the exuberant title track, Curson declaims with a heart that “sings.”