Valery Ponomarev: A Star for You

I haven’t heard every album the Russian trumpeter plays on, but this one must rank at or near the top. Ponomarev exhibits great exuberance-with technique to match. Conceptually, he suggests a more bubbly, less ironic Lee Morgan (one of his predecessors with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers) and a bebop-oriented Kenny Wheeler. The trumpeter’s mood and energy inspire his quintet, especially tenor saxophonist Bob Berg and powerhouse drummer Billy Hart. Pianist Sid Simmons, a spare, linear player, is a good change of pace. Bassist Ken Walker (nice surname for a bassist) has a fine tone and plays neat, leapfrogging solo lines.

Tunes include “We’ll Be Together Again” and six Ponomarev originals. The originals show that the leader has both retained the essence of and updated the Blakey lineage.