Trumpeter Clay Jenkins' first release on the Jazz Compass label -- which he co-founded -- is a challenging, enjoyable, and edgy collection of songs fully informed by the post-bop aesthetic. Jenkins is a technically adroit, progressive-minded player who also displays a knack for melodic introspection on Azure Eyes. It often seems as if he has so many ideas about how to color chord progressions that he doubles back on his own ideas in mid-sentence, heading off on unexpected and pleasing tangents. Backing Jenkins here are other members of the Jazz Compass family, including guitarist Larry Koonse, bassist Tom Warrington, drummer Joe LaBarbera, and pianist Reggie Thomas. While Jenkins does cover the standards "Hot House" and "It Never Entered My Mind," the best bits here are the original tunes, especially the mellow and mid-tempo "Blue Fool." Similarly, "Love Alone" is a brooding and starry minor ballad worthy of Miles Davis' late-'60s quintet. Much of the up-tempo work is reminiscent of Black Codes-era Wynton Marsalis, featuring harmonically complex and muscular improvisation.
Azure Eyes Review
by Matt Collar