Trumpeter Russell Gunn wastes little time in living up to the title of his latest disc. His opening salvo, "The Freedom Suite," quickly moves from stately to smokin', with rippling, high-energy blasts.
But Gunn also knows when to tone down the gunplay, as do his sidemen pianist Marc Cary, alto saxophonist Bruce Williams, bassist Eric Revis and drummer Terreon Gully who help define short pieces like "Amnesia" and "El's Kitchen."
This balance of classicism and cockiness feels relaxed and natural, despite Gunn's sharp shift to a straight-ahead approach after 1999's Ethnomusicology, Vol. 1. "The Beeach" (RealAudio excerpt), however, harkens to a funkier past.
Gunn slips into smooth, extended runs on the sparse, swinging trad-burn of "Delfeayo's Dilemma" and cranks up the heat with dancing notes on his seven-minute showpiece, "Groid."
Williams is less convincing, following Gunn on "Groid" with a conversational, rough-shod break where his squeals sound weak around the edges. Cary is less openly assertive, but very supportive.
Revis is lean and firm throughout, while Gully slams home Williams' well-defined "Memory of Waterford," after a scorching build-up from its alto-brandishing author.
Gunn boldly closes the album with Coltrane's classic "Crescent" (RealAudio excerpt), taking the lead from a creamy tone to forceful etchings.