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Lionheart by Brad Upton

Trumpeter Brad Upton’s new release Lionheart is difficult to classify. In spots, Lionheart sounds like the kind of experimentation that Mile Davis popularized during the 70’s. In other areas Upton’s group sounds like a contemporary smooth jazz ensemble.

In his attempt to make Lionheart unique, Upton over arranged it. The song Blues for Hub, for example, is weaken by the inclusion of an "arranger" played by keyboardist Eric Gunnison. Throughout the recording Gunnison’s wailing--particularly on Fine Back--is antithetical to Upton inherent lyricism. They appeared to be engaged in a barroom brawl.

Gunnison is particularly self-indulgent on Fine Back. Gunnison grandstands throughout the recording. In fact, he is so domineering that he could be mistaken for the leader. Upton’s manages to undermines Gunnison’s grandstanding on Fine Back and For Tony William.

Upton’s lyrical strength finally surfaces on the ballad Never Forget This although his playing is subservient to guitarist Eduardo Barbosa who is a non-factor for most of this recording. Barbosa light-handedness suits Upton's style of trumpeting.

On For Tony Williams Upton and Gunnison continue to work out their aggression. Here they finally complement each other creativity. This is probably the best track on the disc. The other tracks from this point are hit-or-miss. Upton is a fine trumpeter, but on this disc he couldn’t decide what type of trumpeter he wanted to be.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Brad Upton
  • CD Title: Lionheart
  • Genre: Contemporary Jazz / Modern
  • Year Released: 2003
  • Record Label: Varahi Music
  • Tracks: Fine Back, Lionheart, For Tony Williams, Black Crown, For OSO, Blues For Hub, and Never Forget This
  • Musicians: Brad Upton (trumpet), Eric Gunnison (Keyboard, piano, and arranger), Matt Houston (drums and percussions), Eduardo Barbosa (seven string electric bass)
  • Rating: Two Stars
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