Album of the Day: Dwight Trible, “Inspirations”

It’s one thing to have a powerful voice, but Dwight Trible has the kind of baritone you tell people about. He can stretch a note, then round it off neat; he enunciates clearly and declaims with range; he is equal parts strength and supplesse, and zero parts smarm. You imagine it comes as the result of great experience, which it does.

He’s worked with late legendary bandleader Horace Tapscott and current tenor-sax torchbearer Kamasi Washington. He sings mantras with Pharoah Sanders, format-breaking compositions with Nicole Mitchell, and electronic cut-and-paste with Mark de Clive-Lowe and Carlos Niño. His new album was made in England with trumpeter and producer Matthew Halsall, far from the fertile musical groundswell of Los Angeles. But it does find him in the taproot of his jazz endeavors—it’s a straightforward, straight-ahead showcase for his earnest interpretations.

It’s called Inspirations, which could well apply to his repertoire choices. Spiritual concerns are considered in “Heaven & Hell” by Dorothy Ashby and “Dear Lord” by Alice Coltrane. A single pedal point on “What The World Needs Now” and a wholly-committed essay on “Feeling Good” chug along at an even pace. The standard “I Love Paris” and Donny Hathaway’s commentary “Tryin’ Times” deliver equal intensity to different ends. Folk song “Black Is The Colour of My True Love’s Hair” and spiritual “Deep River” connect to longer histories. It’s all clearly executed with full-throated investment, which makes it easy to believe he’s inspired.

The setting, however, is more a blowing session than a syncretic collaboration. The bulk of Inspirations takes place at relaxed or slower tempos. The rhythm section of Taz Modi (piano), Gavin Barras (bass), and Jon Scott (drums, chiefly) is tactful and propulsive as necessary, but generally unobtrusive. Similarly, Halsall solos with restraint and ample space—he certainly doesn’t upstage his guest. If you know what else the leading men are capable of, perhaps you’d be looking for a deeper synthesis of big ears. Then again, there’s not really a bad way to hear Dwight Trible meld a familiar song into his own.

Patrick Jarenwattananon

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