At the height of his addiction Charlie Parker once said, “Bread is your only friend.” He was also speaking from the standpoint of how little was paid to musicians – especially Black musicians – in America. John Pittman touches upon something that Mr Parker also felt strongly about but rarely was able to articulate through his pain and that is Kinship – the unbreakable bond that exists between artists that might sometimes bind them together more closely to each other than to their spouses (assuming, that is, they were brave enough to risk marriage). Married to his music, no doubt, Mr Pittman is also recognizable from his long association with Toronto, Canada’s now-celebrated Heavyweights Brass Band, a collective for which trombonist Christopher Butcher often speaks for as founder and lover of all things Jazz. Mr Pittman has now also stepped out, if you like, for things Jazzy in the form of eight wonderful songs – six of which he has written.
The breadth of the writing is truly impressive. Mr Pittman waxes his way eloquently through a myriad of styles from swinging pieces (“Ties that Bind” with its wonderfully angular time changes and rippling percussive groove) to the caressingly vivid portrait (“For Shiobhan”). The repertoire is often the first measure of how much musical history has been absorbed by a musician. Many times this takes the form of standards. This usually means a de rigueur selection from Broadway, film and Tin Pan Alley songs that have been brought together in a kind of imaginary “Great American Songbook”. Ever since Herbie Hancock released his record The New Standard (Verve, 1995) the notional covers of the book were torn out and in their place new sheet music was added – music from what listener were told was “pop music”. Suddenly the “Fakebook” of music (no better word was invented) was re-bound. Mr Pittman’s selection includes Stevie Wonder’s “As” and a song co-authored by the whimsical team of will.i.am. ap de ap, Taboo, Timberlake, Printzboard, Fratantuno and Pajan entitled almost abnormally normally as “Where is the Love?”
The rest of the music is written by the trumpeter himself and this is where he shows just how gifted he is. This is not to suggest that Mr Pittman is a shrinking violet as an arranger. In fact, apart from his powerful and eloquent trumpet playing, he has a talent for arranging music in spades. He seems to “hear” music in sinuous melodic and harmonic tones and textures which is how he has come to use the trumpet-baritone saxophone voicing on this recording; something that is wonderfully pulled off by bouncing melodic lead lines off Shrirantha Beddage (another enormously gifted music from Toronto). His rhythm section of pianist Jeff McLeod, bassist Mike Downes and drummer Curtis Nowosad can do no wrong either and each of them is fully attuned to Mr Pittman’s vision and artistry.
As a trumpeter Mr Pittman has long-since shown that he has a deep and abiding love for the titular lead instrument of the Jazz ensemble – the trumpet… The brass horn is the stuff of legends from Buddy Bolden and Louis Armstrong to “Doc” Cheatham and Freddy Keppard, Dizzy, Clark Terry, Miles, and others down to Wynton Marsalis, and (with the obvious exception of Mr Bolden) Mr Pittman has “listened” to them all taking lessons in attack, dynamics and articulation from all before embarking upon a questing journey for his own voice. Listening to him play one is struck by his tone redolent of gleaming brass forged in the fire of emotion. Add to that the tantalising symmetry of his lines, which set off in wrong-footing directions and unexpected turnarounds, but always land exactly right, with their own fascinating rhythm. Put that together with his gifts in the songwriting department and you will have two compelling reasons to listen to this record carefully. A new voice of the trumpet in contemporary music has certainly arrived…
Track list – 1: Ties that Bind; 2: For Siobhan; 3: Homio-stasis; 4: Moray Crossing; 5: Where is the Love? 6: Reminiscing; 7: As; 8: Home
Personnel – John Pittman: trumpet; Shrirantha Beddage: baritone saxophone; Jeff McLeod: piano; Mike Downes: contrabass; Curtis Nowosad: drums
Released – 2018 | Label – Slammin’ Media (0001) | Runtime – 45:16