Russell Gunn is an extremely versatile trumpeter, to say the least: aside from leading his own sessions (the stunning Love Requiem, on High Note, for instance) he’s played with Branford Marsalis, Lou Reed, Maxwell and Oliver Lake. But he’s no master-of-all-trades hack - his playing is of the Freddie Hubbard (w/ a touch of Chuck Mangione, who at one time WAS a fine flugelhornist who played in Blakey’s Messengers) milieu, pointed ‘n’ brassy but not overly so, and he just refuses to be limited by any constricting notions of "purity." On this, his latest platter, Gunn melds hard bop and hiphop with touches of funk and pop, coming up with a tribute of sorts to not-so-disparate types of American music. T. Monk’s "Epistrophy" is driven by judicious scratching along with a Sly & The Family Stone-styled wah-wah’d guitar part and funk groove over which Gunn testifies Clifford Brown righteously - and it closes with a rap that sounds like it’s coming from some funky parallel universe (all distorted and such, yo). "Del Rio" has an inviting, furtive and cinematic Latin-Caribbean melody, a percolating rhythm section and a hearty, big-as-the-Rio Grande trombone solo from Andre Heyward. "Dance Of The Concubine" sounds like primo 60s/70s Jazz Messengers having a go at a piece of mood-rich Ellington exotica. (Imagine Eddie Constantine in a trench coat, a cancer stick in hand, grooving with a mysterious Lady From The East in some elegant dive in Havana or Tangiers.)
The Duke is saluted here as well: "It Don’t Mean A Thing" is dressed up in some New Orleans finery, and pianist Marc Cary shines here, combining the protean swing of Jaki Byard and the gentle-natured grace of Vince Guaraldi. There’s nothing momentous or innovative about Ethnomusicology Vol. 2 - if fact, what makes this platter so appealing, aside from the variety, is the utter "artlessness" of Gunn’s approach. There’s chops a-plenty, but nobody sounds as if they’re trying to make lungbusting Grand Statements; there’s a refreshing relaxed air to this session, like Gunn’s aim was to put out a set of upbeat, easygoing but thoroughly substantial jazz that forgoes the Deadly Seriousness that mars a lot of creative jazz these days. Had a tuff day at the salt mines? Take a night class at Russell Gunn’s college of jazzical knowledge and chill out while you learn.