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Thomas Marriott: Urban Folklore

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Thomas Marriott would be better known if he had stayed in New York, where he was a respected trumpet player on the scene in the early years of the new millennium. Instead, for quality-of-life reasons, he returned to his hometown of Seattle, where he has assembled a substantial body of work on the local label, Origin.

Marriott usually records with Seattle’s best players, but here he employs a name-brand East Coast rhythm section: Orrin Evans, Eric Revis and Donald Edwards. The playing on this album is high-class and fierce. From the opening bravura flourish of “Apophis” (for an Egyptian god of chaos), Marriott is pure daredevil speed and brassy belligerence. It is exhilarating to fly with him around the hairpin turns of “Mo-Joe” (for Joe Locke). Evans is a jarring piano accompanist who takes jagged, challenging solos.

Yet for all the firepower in this quartet, Urban Folklore is about Marriott the composer. His tunes are like his playing, hard and clean and intelligent. In his liner notes he explains the premise behind every song. More albums should offer these insights. Yes, music must be able to stand alone. But it does not hurt a thing to know that “Room 547” was the hospital delivery room where Marriott’s daughter was born (its two-note fanfare is a joyful welcome) or that “What Emptiness Can Do” (a smear of melody, lingered over) is about hitting rock bottom and choosing where to go from there.

The last track, “Washington Generals,” starts like a bop anthem but encompasses lyric trumpet interludes, piano drones and drum drama. It is a loving tribute to the basketball team that loses every night to the Harlem Globetrotters. “How liberating that must be,” says Marriott. He is a player and composer who operates beneath the obvious.

Originally Published