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Wednesday, November 17, 1999

Preacherman

Posted By on Wed, Nov 17, 1999 at 12:00 AM

Rod McGaha distinguishes himself from the current generation of trumpet players with his debut album, Preacherman. McGaha avoids the pitfalls of most debut records, which are usually formulaic and predictable, often leading the listener to wonder whether or not there are any fresh ways to play jazz. He has, instead, invented a new spectrum of sounds and a humanistic way of expressing himself on his horn.

The first three tunes on Preacherman show his modernistic approach to arranging. The variation of rhythmic patterns and the contrasting tempo changes give the collection an eclectic vibe – and the compositions that McGaha wrote for this date contain some striking elements of surprise and joviality.

McGaha jump-starts the set with "Cookout." With a mute in his trumpet, the introductory passage sounds as if he’s going to burst into a mournful blues. Instead, he shoots adrenaline into the tempo and turns it into a funky dance number. There are always dual themes at work in his music. When pianist Lori Meecham starts "Splip, Bap, Boom" with a heavy gospel motif, it feels as if she’s going to move the music from the streets into the church. She uses this prelude to establish a context in which McGaha can transform the number into a lively blues.

On the title cut, McGaha works his trumpet into an array of human sounds. His horn moans, aches and cries, each note with its own emotion to convey.

Even the standards get reworked for this record. On Ellington’s "In a Sentimental Mood," McGaha reconfigures a song most players play softly and reflectively, and gives it a feeling of darkness and gloom.

Preacherman puts McGaha in the same league as saxophonist James Carter and pianist D.D. Jackson. They aren’t slaves to convention. Instead of recycling the same jazz forms, all three have pushed the music forward by finding new ways to speak through their instruments.

McGaha has given us a chunk of his genius.

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