Trumpet After Dark is subtitled "Jazz in a Meditative Mood," and that is an accurate description of this 2005 release; Randy Sandke does, in fact, favor a meditative, reflective, contemplative mood this time. And the people who help him achieve that include not only his jazz quartet -- Sandke on trumpet, Bill Charlap on piano, Greg Cohen on bass, and Dennis Mackrel on drums -- but also, the New York City-based string quartet Parthenia. All four of Parthenia's members (Lisa Terry, Beverly Au, Rosamund Morley, and Lawrence Lipnik) play some type of viol, a string instrument that was prominent in European classical and folk in the 16th and 17th centuries but has since taken a back seat to the violin. The viol, also known as the viola da gamba (which means "viola of the leg" in Italian), hasn't exactly been ubiquitous in jazz, but it's an instrument that serves Sandke pleasingly well on this acoustic, classical-influenced post-bop date. Trumpet After Dark doesn't have the sort of lushness that Charlie Parker, Chet Baker, Clifford Brown, Wes Montgomery, and others favored on their famous "jazz with strings" sessions back in the 20th century; regardless, Sandke's playing is quite lyrical and melodic on a diverse program that ranges from Sandke originals to Fryderyk Chopin's "Etude in E" to jazz warhorses like Billy Strayhorn's "Lush Life" and Mal Waldron's "Soul Eyes." A very flexible player, Sandke can -- depending on his mood -- be anything from cerebral and abstract (or even mildly avant-garde) to romantic, accessible, and melodic. And his more accessible side definitely prevails on the enjoyable Trumpet After Dark, which makes one hope that Sandke will have other encounters with Parthenia in the future.
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson