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Charlie Porter | Charlie Porter

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United States - Oregon

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Jazz: Chamber Jazz Blues: Jazzy Blues Moods: Instrumental
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Charlie Porter

by Charlie Porter

The self-titled album by a virtuoso trumpeter featuring nearly all original compositions. The opening solo track, "Prologue," combines the themes on the album into a mesmerizing overture beyond category or genre.
Genre: Jazz: Chamber Jazz
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
clip
1. Prologue
5:19 album only
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2. Mel Smiles
3:37 album only
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3. Rondo for Sticky
8:38 album only
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4. New Beginnings
8:16 album only
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5. A Lover Scorned
5:36 album only
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6. Brown Study
8:37 album only
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7. Messenger
8:34 album only
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8. Skain Train
3:40 album only
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9. Morning Glory
4:56 album only
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10. Anthem
5:18 album only
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11. Epilogue
1:42 album only
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.

ABOUT THIS ALBUM


Album Notes
Playing jazz music that doesn’t veer into the experimental, it’s easy to fall into the patterns that have been set in place by past generations of musicians. Go to most any nightclub gig or jam session and the routine goes: 1) the full ensemble will play the head in, setting the tone and tempo for a song; 2) all the players get a turn soloing, one right after the other; 3) the band plays the head out for a few more bars before bringing the tune to a close.

It’s a fantastic formula that has been working well for decades. But any jazz artist or deep fan of the genre knows that mixing it up is the only way to stay engaged and excited. Trumpeter Charlie Porter knows that all too well. Which is why when he was setting out to write and record his new self-titled album—his first as a bandleader—he wanted to mess with the template in small and large ways.

He knew, for example, that he wanted to play with a lot of different musicians. Living and working in Portland, Oregon, Porter has plenty of options to choose from as the Northwest city has cultivated a thriving jazz community where artists young and seasoned can enjoy a comfortable, if modest existence. As well, he wanted to challenge himself as a writer and player by dabbling in different styles and moods that would fit the various combinations of players he was putting together.

But rather than have it as a scattershot collection of tunes, Porter figured out an arc to the album that would tie all of the pieces together into a nice, tidy package. It starts off with just himself on trumpet. On the next track, he adds a player; on the next, another player. He continues adding folks for a few more songs until he’s playing in a sextet. After that, he reverses the process, subtracting players, track by track, until he closes the album all on his own again. In other words: a kind of musical palindrome.

With the concept in place, Porter was free to follow his muse wherever it might lead him. For “Mel Smiles,” he sticks in a joyous bop vein, sparring gently with the brushed, energetic drums of his duet partner, the legendary Mel Brown. On the quartet piece “New Beginnings,” the music smoothly moves from a swinging waltz to a heated tempo with Porter sashaying through every step. “Skain Train,” the other quartet piece with bass, drums and violin, is hot jazz of the highest order, calling back to jazz’s New Orleans roots. And the appropriately titled “Anthem,” featuring simply trumpet and piano, feels stately and haunting; the kind of song that tangles with the mixed emotions of the past while looking boldly and confidently into the future.

Porter pays direct homage to the past, too, with a take on “Morning Glory,” a classic from the vast catalog of pioneering composer Duke Ellington. Originally released in 1940, the song is a stunner, with swelling horn lines and a slow dance ready rhythm. Porter speeds things up just so, but winnows down the instrumentation to the bare essentials: his subtle, yet soaring trumpet lines, and accompaniment by guitar and bass. Nothing gets lost in the translation. If anything, it just proves how pliable Duke’s writing remains, capable of finding purchase in the hearts of players nearly 80 years after it was introduced.

Connecting one end of this album to the other are the opening and closing tracks, titled, in wonderfully novelistic fashion, “Prologue” and “Epilogue.” The former sets the stage for everything to follow with Porter building a song from melodies from each of the next nine tracks, a kind of musical foreshadowing of what’s to come. The latter is built off a pair of mirrored phrases, or, if you will, another palindrome, boiling down the larger concept of the album into its purest, simplest form. The overall feeling is something like a truncated life cycle, with the excitement of new experiences and ideas giving way to a contemplative nostalgic afterglow.

The beauty is that it doesn’t have to end there. What often gets lost in our era of information overload, when new creations are being released into the world at an exponential rate, is that the album experience can tap the brakes on that way of thinking. It doesn’t have to be that way. All you need to do is turn the record over and drop the needle again, or hit play on the CD player. An album as inventive as this, and as full to bursting with sparkling performances from Porter and some of Portland’s best, deserves such deep listening and return engagement.

-Robert Ham

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