A review of trumpeter Brian Lynch's "Unsung Heroes Project" Volumes 1 and 2 written by Atane Ofiaja:
When the opportunity presented itself for me to review Vol 1 and Vol 2 of the "Unsung Heroes Project" by Brian Lynch, I was ecstatic. Lynch had been on my radar since 2007. I remember it well because I was covering NYC's J&R Jazz music festival. The stagehands backstage were listening to music that sounded awesome. I asked them what was playing, and they told me it was "Simpático" by Brian Lynch and Eddie Palmieri. I was so impressed; I bought the CD the next day.
The concept behind "Unsung Heroes" is brilliant. Lynch pays homage to trumpet greats that haven't garnered the critical acclaim and accolades from the public that they certainly deserve.
Lynch says, "Unsung Heroes pays tribute to and features the compositions of jazz trumpet giants such as Joe Gordon, Tommy Turrentine, Idrees Sulieman, and other greats who have flown under the radar of popular acclaim despite their artistry and influence on players such as myself."
Joining Lynch on the project is Vincent Herring on alto sax, Alex Hoffman (@alexhoffmanjazz) on tenor sax, Rob Schneiderman on piano, David Wong on bass, Pete Van Nostrand on drums, and Little Johnny Rivero on congas.
The first song on Vol.1 is "Terra Firma Irma" by Joe Gordon from his 'Lookin' Good' LP. I thought I was the only one on Earth who actually knew about this album. Boy was I grinning ear to ear when it came on. The band really nailed the vibe and tonality of the original. It's a shame Gordon died at the mere age of 35.
As for the rest of Vol.1, the entire thing swings. Classics like "The House of Saud" by Charles Tolliver and "Wetu" by Louis Smith are here. One standout song on Vol.1 was "RoditiSamba", a tribute song to Claudio Roditi, who until reviewing this album, I knew nothing about.
Vol.2, like Vol.1 starts off on a high note and soars to the very end. It begins with "It Could Be" composed by Tommy Turrentine, the older brother to one of my favorite sax players, Stanley Turrentine. Tommy might not be as famous as his brother, and he might only have one date as a leader, but his contribution to jazz should not be ignored. He was a definitive sideman for many, including one of my favorite pianists, Horace Parlan, another underrated musician. I'm very happy to see him represented so prominently on this project. He deserves the recognition.
What I like about this project is that it puts the spotlight on these jazz trumpeters that are seldom discussed. Obviously, these are the ones Mr. Lynch selected, but without a shadow of a doubt, the list of "unsung heroes" in jazz is quite long. I consider myself a serious jazz fan, and while I'm familiar with some of the recordings on this project (Louis Smith, Joe Gordon, Donald Byrd), many of them are new to me.
Hearing 'Sandy' by Howard McGhee and 'Short Steps' by Idrees Sulieman, both on Vol. 2 were revelations. I have music by men like Sulieman as sidemen, but nothing of his as a leader. This album has ignited a fire in me to investigate the works of these great men. Men who even serious jazz fans have overlooked, or in some cases know little to nothing about.
The full list of trumpeters paid homage to in this project are Kamau Muata Adilifu (formerly Charles Sullivan), Donald Byrd, Joe Gordon, Howard McGhee, Claudio Roditi, Louis Smith, Idrees Sulieman, Ira Sullivan, Charles Tolliver and Tommy Turrentine.
All volumes of the "Unsung Heroes Project", including the Vol.3, which is comprised of alternate takes are available for purchase digitally via bandcamp. Fret not audiophiles, you're covered too. It's available in every format option to suit everyone's needs, from mp3 to FLAC and Apple Lossless. In terms of fidelity, I can tell you that the lossless versions sound superb. In some of the recording session videos, I saw that Lynch was wearing a pair of Grado headphones (SR 225 model I believe). Anyone wearing those headphones knows a thing or two about audio quality.
If you prefer music of the tangible variety, the CD versions are due to be released in December. Regardless of which version you decide on purchasing, you simply cannot go wrong with jazz of this caliber. A brilliant job by Brian Lynch, it's highly recommended!
Atane Ofiaja is an audiophile and passionate jazz fan. He's written numerous articles and covered many music events, concerts and festivals, primarily for J&R electronics in New York City, as well as independently.