Following 1999's hip-hop/jazz foray Ethnomusicology, Vol. 1, trumpeter Russell Gunn returns to straight-ahead jazz on Smokin Gunn, where he's joined by altoist Bruce Williams, pianist Marc Cary, bassist Eric Revis, and drummer Terreon Gully. Compositionally, there's a distinct flavor of early Wynton Marsalis in Gunn's originals. One hears the influence of the elder trumpeter in the bashing, blistering tempo of "Groid," the modal changes of "Amnesia," and "The Beeach," and the odd phrase lengths of "El's Kitchen." Gunn even pays direct tribute to Marsalis with a brief trio rendition of "Delfeayo's Dilemma," a track off of Black Codes (From the Underground). The presence of Eric Revis, Branford Marsalis's bassist of choice at the time of this recording, makes the Marsalis connection even stronger. Gunn opens and closes the album with bold strokes, beginning with excerpts from his "Freedom Suite" (not to be confused with Sonny Rollins's) and ending with the Coltrane masterpiece "Crescent." (It's particularly refreshing to hear a trumpeter tackle something so closely identified with a tenor player.) But Smokin Gunn, despite its many highlights, falls short of being a major individual statement. That said, it's a very good way to encounter the hard-edged and inventive piano playing of Marc Cary. And anything with Terreon Gully at the drums is bound to swing like crazy.
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AllMusic Review by David R. Adler