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Valery Ponomarev Jazz Big Band: Our Father Who Art Blakey

Valery Ponomarev was 30 when he defected from Soviet Russia for the United States in 1973. Four years later the trumpeter was a core member of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, touring and contributing to several recordings before bowing out to go the solo route, his place taken by a young Wynton Marsalis. Although he never became a major jazz name, Ponomarev has maintained a solid career, releasing albums as a leader and penning a memoir, but he still recalls those first dream-come-true days with Blakey with great fondness.

This new release, his first live album, serves as something of a sequel to 2001’s The Messenger, but it’s nothing like it. Where the earlier set was a quintet record in Blakey’s own small-group hard-bop tradition, for this new one Ponomarev reconstructs several signature Blakey performances for big band. In doing so, his ingenuity allows him to succeed where so many tributes fail.

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