By Frank Alkyer | Published December 2023
Since his 2011 debut album When the Heart Emerges Glistening (Blue Note), trumpeter/composer Ambrose Akinmusire has created music with a deep, soulful thoughtfulness and purpose that stretches boundaries and pulls at the heartstrings. He has done it again with his latest recording, Owl Song (Nonesuch), a quiet rush of gorgeous sound where space, tone and beauty come together in one of the most impactful albums of 2023. For this outing, Akinmusire has chosen a definite less-is-more philosophy, beginning with his bandmates for the recording — a simple trio with guitarist Bill Frisell and drummer Herlin Riley. The music they make is nothing short of stunning. They weave in, out and through each other with grace, Frisell’s guitar serving up beautiful, often repeated, motifs; Riley’s drums keeping steady, fascinating rhythms. For his part, Akinmusire chooses long, lovely tones that squeeze feelings of love, loss and angst from every single note. “Owl Song 1” and “Owl Song 2” offer stellar examples played at achingly slow paces with plenty of space for experimentation and interaction. The appropriately titled “Grace” offers a taste of the appreciation Akinmusire has for this music, while “Mr. Frisell” and “Mr. Riley” demonstrate his appreciation for his two gifted collaborators. This is one of the most interesting recordings to come along in a very long time by one of the most interesting artists of our time. DownBeat will be featuring Akinmusire on the March 2024 issue cover.