Matt Shulman: So It Goes

Matt Shulman
So It Goes

There’s a ballad performance of “My Funny Valentine” on this set by the young trumpeter Matt Shulman, with mute in place, a magnificent horn-filling tone, and mastery of melodic phrasing and invention rare at any time — and of a kind which would have impressed and not been out of place fifty years and more ago coming from one of the great swing or mainstream trumpeters. Anybody really keen on that wonderful sort of thing, and willing to buy a CD for one track only, should get this at once, but also be aware that music of entirely other sorts is also to be found on this set.

Multiphonics is the kind of word that classicists of an earlier day commonly turned up their noses at. Its etymology is part Latin, part Greek. It’s needed to denote something different from polyphony (many voices, counterpoint et cetera), namely the making of several different noises at the same time through a wind instrument. Roland Kirk did it on flute, though he also played several horns at once, with the respective keys rigged together. Joe Henderson did it while playing just a tenor saxophone, and Ray Anderson does it on trombone. The term can’t really be applied to cases where the several-notes sound is made by a beginner. The sound is like more than one person simultaneously playing a melody, each with a different sound.

It sounds strange on the normally clean-and-brilliant-toned trumpet, and if you’re not prepared and put too much emphasis on first impressions, a minute of “So It Goes”, the opening track on this CD, could put you right off. The sound is something like close unison between a bass trombone and a kazoo. You might turn away too soon and not imagine how many other things the man can do, most of them more interesting than what on this title track might sound too damned strange.

He sings, but often through the trumpet. Then again, sometimes when he’s playing the undertone detaches and he sounds like two trumpeters with a further mysterious aural shadow. Sometimes it’s as if he had detached the main part of the trumpet and was playing the mouthpiece. He does make some use of electronics, but certainly where that happens it’s for the most part simply an extension of what he does elsewhere by unorthodox means. His accompaniment is expert and provided simply by a very able bassist and drummer.

On “Truckin'” — not to be confused with the 1930s number recorded by among others Ellington — he does however swing mightily, with traditional virtues on a number where the strangeness of some sounds he makes aren’t at odds with the music. For the rest, I did recognize a strange fascination on my part with what was being done. I recognized that from the fact that I was re-replaying the disc. References elsewhere to ‘pop-jazz’ in respect to this album are a little unfortunate, since that genre is generally associated with a limited effort at creativity in strictly jazz terms (speaking pop with a jazz accent). Shulman, however, speaks the real thing, and there’s a lot of musical substance here.

RATING 7 / 10
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