|Jacob Varmus, west coast raised and New York based, has released a new record, a first as a leader, and one that Ive listed as a favourite for 2006. The new recording by Varmus, All The Things We Still Can Be, features his excellent trumpet playing and his compositional skills, which are evident on six of the eight wonderful compositions on the CD. The lead-in track, a Varmus original with a catchy title, Ecstatic Little Porpoises, is a bluesy tune with great drum breaks, fantastic guitar passages, striking piano comping and Varmus, swimming, in and out, over and under the melody with a beautiful, warm, full, round cornet sound.
The title track is a melodious ballad that has Varmus repeating the main theme, imprinting the melody in your mind and setting up bridges, that allows for open, free spirited playing by Varmus as he explores the layers of the song. Drummer Brian Woodruff leads the rhythm section through a fine display of tasty percussive cymbal work that blends perfectly with the piano of Toru Dodo and is backed up with the precision playing of Yoshi Waki on acoustic bass.
The next Varmus original composition, Untimely Intrusion, is an up tempo number that features Nate Radley on guitar. He glides in and performs single note riffs, playing off Toru Dodos piano stylings and in combination with him, producing a fine sound on an exciting break, leading to some dynamic and original trumpet playing by Varmus.
There is a certain reminiscence to that west coast sound of the late fifties trumpet playing that evokes images of a young Chet Baker and driven home with singing that is as if, a page was taken from the Chet Baker songbook. The singing of Chet Baker is an acquired taste that has eluded me all these years, on Everything Happens To Me (Tom Adair & Matt Dennis), Jacob Varmus sings the last chorus and he has not won me over to Bakers singing style with this effort. Jacob Varmus communicates all that needs to be communicated with his horn and that should suffice.
What Is This Thing We Still Can Be is a play on the title track, muted trumpet versus open trumpet. Still swinging and utilizing the rhythm section to the fullest potential, this CD is an excellent first effort that makes Jacob Varmus a name to look out for, check him out on All The Things We Still Can Be.
report by Paul J. Youngman KJA Jazz Advocate December 2006