French trumpeter Stephane Belmondo can safely be embraced by pure jazz conservatives and forward-looking fans of contemporary jazz. And this is not the case of a moderate being plain vanilla. Belmondo is serious about his playing, composing, and with whom he chooses to play, so no one is going to confuse The Same As It Never Was Before (which is an appropriate album title when you think about it) as complacent line straddling. Kirk Lightsey and Billy Hart bring their individualistic spark to Belmondo’s songs in a way that few other pianists and drummers probably can, and bassist Sylvain Romano certainly isn’t deadweight. The album’s possible highlight: a cover of Stevie Wonder’s “You and I” that makes the flugelhorn sound like ‘50s era Miles Davis. Whether it’s swinging or just hanging in the air, The Same As It Never Was comes strongly recommended.