In the early '90s, Next Plateau Records was primarily a rap/urban contemporary/dance-pop outfit; the label's most successful act was Salt-N-Pepa. But Next Plateau tried to infiltrate the NAC/smooth jazz market with this self-titled CD by trumpeter Bruce Purse. Throughout the 1991 release, Purse's playing is heavily influenced by Miles Davis -- unfortunately, the disc is disappointing more often than not. Purse's album does have its moments; "New York, New York" (not to be confused with either the Frank Sinatra or Grandmaster Flash hits) is a provocative, jazz-tinged rap number that reflects on race relations in the Big Apple, while "Put Your Hands on Your Pocketbook" is a mysterious yet funky instrumental that would not have been out of place on Davis' Tutu album. But much of the time, Purse provides lightweight, innocuous background music that was obviously recorded with NAC/smooth jazz formats in mind. The trumpeter shows very little imagination on Janet Jackson's "Come Back to Me," Tony! Toni! Toné!'s "It Never Rains in Southern California," and Michel'le's "Something in My Heart"; instead of really digging into the urban contemporary tunes and doing some serious interpreting, he offers the sort of uninteresting, note-for-note covers one would expect from Najee, Dave Koz, or Richard Elliott. And the problem isn't that Purse is playing smooth jazz -- the problem is that he's doing it with so little imagination. He forgets the lesson that Davis taught listeners when he flirted with smooth jazz in 1985. That year, Davis' interpretations of Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time" and Michael Jackson's "Human Nature" demonstrated that a trumpeter can play commercial pop-jazz and still have a brain -- and it's evident that Chris Botti was paying attention because his smooth jazz usually has integrity. Again, Purse's CD has its moments, but 80 percent of the time he sells himself short.
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