Joe Magnarelli: Lookin’ Up! (2014)
Trumpeter Joe Magnarelli has been a jazz scene stalwart for 30 years. Based in New York since 1986 he’s worked with a broad range of musicians including Lionel Hampton, Jimmy Cobb and Michael Feinstein and has released a series of albums as leader.Lookin’ Up! is his first recording for the Posi-Tone label and it proves to be a fine addition to that label’s roster of top-flight straight-ahead jazz.
Lookin’ Up! is a quintet outing, with trombonist and fellow Posi-Tone artist Steve Davis sharing the front line with Magnarelli. The album has a full, rich, sound courtesy of producer Marc Free and engineer Nick O’Toole. It showcases the five musicians as a group and the result is powerfully seductive.
Magnarelli and Davis form a strong front line—punchy and tough on Magnarelli’s “44” andJohn Handy‘s “In Walked Lila”; swinging on “You Go To My Head” and “Suddenly It’s Spring.” The rhythm section—pianist Anthony Wonsey, bassist Mike Karn and drummer Jason Brown—provides the expert support that ensures the lead players shine as brightly as they can. Brown is the driving force, Karn’s cool and reliable, Wonsey is a master of comping. Even without Magnarelli or Davis the three men hold the attention, establishing a groove or a mood with ease—on their brief but cool intro to the leader’s “Blue Key” for example, or during Karn’s energetic solo on “Suddenly It’s Spring.”
Magnarelli takes on the leader’s role with aplomb. His playing is consistently superb. On his own “Inner Beauty” he’s controlled yet romantic, characteristics that also define Wonsey’s solo: on John Coltrane‘s “Miles’ Mode” his muted trumpet flies over Karn and Brown’s rhythmic foundation, the whole tune full of exuberant joy. Jimmy Van Heusen’s “Darn That Dream” starts as a trumpet/piano duet then adds bass and drums—from start to finish it’s a graceful and lyrical reading of the old standard.
Lookin’ Up! closes with a fiery rendition of “In Walked Lila” which gives each musician a chance to loosen up and let rip. Five masterful talents, ten great tunes, that’s Lookin’ Up!.