Thursday, October 20, 2011

Mark Isham - Blue Sun

A fine album by this trumpeter better known for film scores and Windham Hill new age electronics than for jazz. However, on this outing, Mark Isham struts his jazz stuff. Although the instrumentation includes electric bass, occasional electric piano, and a sprinkling of atmospheric electronics, the feel here is of an acoustic recording of the cool jazz school. Isham's quintet includes Steve Tavaglione on tenor saxophone and David Goldblatt on piano, both of whom inform this music with elegance and grace. Isham himself has never sounded better on record, recalling the Miles Davis of the '50s at times, and the rhythm section of drummer Kurt Wortman and bassist Doug Lunn keeps the music moving at a relaxed pace. Isham's work in his Windham Hill days was, while interesting, easily identifiable and properly classified in the new age bin. Here, he has moved in a new, classy direction, proving he can write and perform well-crafted music of substance. - by Jim Newsom, AMG

I hate to make Miles Davis comparisons, and I won't even attempt to critique his technique--I'll let the experts and the brass players do that. I will simply say that, as years have gone by, when I am in the mood for a trumpet CD, I reach for SKETCHES OF SPAIN or BLUE SUN. I don't know what that says for Miles or Isham, but I love both. BLUE SUN is such a wonderful blend of sounds, melodies, and harmonies that I just don't get tired of hearing it. From the opening percussive notes of "Barcelona," right through the subtle keyboard and sax intro to "That Beautiful Sadness," the more restless feel of "Trapeze" and the melancholy "Lazy Afternoon," Isham has me in his grasp. I love the sax harmony and interplay on "Blue Sun," the sorrow of "In More Than Love," and the tip of the hat to both Miles Davis and Robert Frost (I'm a high school English teacher, so I really appreciate the Frost reference) on "And Miles To Go . . . Before He Sleeps." I love just the hint of electric on the closing tune, "Tour de Chance," as well--it closes everything nicely. Where he really slays me, though, is on "In a Sentimental Mood," track 8. I don't think anyone, living or dead, could wring any more emotion and "sentiment" out of a melody than Isham does on this piece. Ohhhh. It's almost exhausting to listen to, but somehow I don't feel exhausted when it's done--I feel refreshed and invigorated. He's done all the work--I just need to slow down and listen. . . . Really nice keyboard work underneath and behind the melody--very understated and appropriate. I don't know how a person could listen to Isham on this track and not run out and buy the CD. Even if you hated the rest, which would be virtually impossible, it would be worth the asking price for this 7+ minute experience. Bottom Line: Whether or not he's the next coming of Miles or just another chump blowing on a trumpet, Mark Isham has captured something very special on this CD. It isn't on his earlier ones, and I haven't heard it on his more recent ones, although I love those, as well. He is garnering some attention as a film scorer, which is great--his scores are excellent--but he can't capture this . . . essence . . . in a film score. This is a very intimate, personal, understated, and reflective effort from Isham. Everyone deserves to experience this hour. . . - by Roger L. Foreman,

Artist: Mark Isham
Album: Blue Sun
Year: 1995
Label: Sony/Columbia
Runtime: 60:55

1.  Barcelona (Mark Isham) 5:12
2.  That Beautiful Sadness (Mark Isham) 5:58
3.  Trapeze (Mark Isham) 6:55
4.  Lazy Afternoon (Jerome Moross/John Latouche) 3:53
5.  Blue Sun (Mark Isham) 9:00
6.  In More Than Love (Mark Isham) 8:06
7.  And Miles To Go... Before He Sleeps (Mark Isham) 7:02
8.  In A Sentimental Mood (Duke Ellington/Irving Mills/Manny Kurtz) 7:50
9.  Tour De Chance (Mark Isham) 6:59

Mark Isham (Trumpet, Cornet, Flugelhorn and Electronics)
David Goldblatt (Acoustic and Electric Piano)
Steve Tavaglione (Tenor Saxophone)
Doug Lunn (Electric Bass)
Kurt Wortman (Drums)
David Torn (Guitar Loops)
Peter Maunu (Guitar Loops)
Lisbeth Scott (Vocal Loops)


  1. although i still enjoy the work isham did with art lande, as well as his defunkt group 87, i've not given his solo outings much attention, fairly or unfairly. i look forward to giving this a spin. thanks.

  2. Itr- thanks for the great music!
    The file requires a password and I didn't see one listed on your post.



  3. I still have some fond feelings for Isham's soundtrack material, especially his Alan Rudolph's, and I liked his modest participation with XTC, so thanks for this new batch



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