Review by Brad Walseth
Trumpeter Maurice Brown is one of the young lions of jazz who is working to bring jazz into the future by building on the foundations of previous great composers, and his debut recording as a bandleader - "Hip to Bop" is an exceptional testament to his skills as a musician, bandleader and composer (all of the songs are Brown originals). In a surprisingly self-assured first release from a young artist, Brown combines elements of hard bop with melodic pop to achieve an intriguing and entertaining sonic treat for the listener.
The hard bopping "Rapture" - with its starts and stops and complex structure - reminds one of the Miles Davis group of the 60s. Brown's trumpet creates intense squeals and blazing fast runs that amaze with their raw ferocity, while Derek Douget's tenor work swings with expressive nuance. Pianist Doug Bickel comps recall Hancock, and the rhythm section of Jason Stewart on bass and Adonis Rose on drums is solid in support.
The pop funk sound of "It's a New Day" hearkens back to the 70's when jazz-flavored tunes could occasionally be heard on pop radio. Brown takes the chance of being accused of having "soul'd out," but this tunes sweetness is disarming and the melody is unforgettable. If there were any justice in this world, this song would be a hit instead of the bland, tuneless dreck that populates the radio playlists these days.
The beautiful ballad "Mi Amor" follows and reveals yet another aspect of the artist. Brown and Douget take turns at sculpting fragile and lovely ice castles of melody - with Bickel also adding some gracious frosting of his own: utterly entrancing. Then without warning, "Conceptions" takes us back into the 60's era hard bopping: the move is so sudden and surprising that it startles, and Brown's audacious nature is made quite apparent. Bickel here is given the spotlight and his solo turn is engaging and energetic.
"Anzao" is a mid tempo number that again recalls Miles, but with an original and quite compelling flavor of its own. The funky, "Hip to Bop" features Brown on a delightfully hip wah-wah trumpet and moves from bebop unison riffing to straight ahead funk in a manner that is simply marvelous fun. Bickel's electric piano and Douget's sax again provide a nice compliment to their bandleader's trumpet improvisations. The fast-paced burner "Look Ma No Hands" shoots out of the gates, with Stewart and Rose powering the music onward, while Douget, Bickel and Brown take turns shredding. And do they shred!
The song ends suddenly before the beautiful closer - "A Call For All Angels" brings us to the end. Bickel's graceful piano and Rose's tasteful tom-tom and cymbal work set the stage for Douget and Brown to lead us homeward. “Angels” provides a glorious and satisfying ending to this strong debut from a young artist for whom the sky is the limit.