The Brad Upton Quartet ~ Lionheart


Last year trumpeter & flugelhornist Brad Upton’s release “Dragon“ made top ten list of JazzTimes magazine year-end review 2002. Now, this really shouldn’t be a surprise too anyone that’s heard or listen too the searing and thematic sounds of The Brad Upton Quartet since his debut titled Black Orchid. Brad and the crew have returned with yet another installment of potent musicianship bridged with superb compositions and arrangements. Making “Lionheart” a gripping tale of artistry and creative energy. 

The Players: Brad Upton ~ Trumpet, Flugelhorn, Eric Gunnison ~ Piano, Keyboards & arrangements, Matt Houston ~ Drums & Percussion and Eduardo “Bijoux” Barrosa ~ Seven String Electric bass 

Since his emergence, Brad Upton continues to hone his skills with a brutal workout schedule in the meantime staying focused as a composer, combining logic without restrain therefore, establishing himself in the forefront as leader of his group and somehow remaining one of the most consistent in the game with each release.  

The lead track “Fine Back” kicks in with a funky backbeat is a perfect example of quality musicianship, each player takes charge by stretching and bending each note stabilizing they’re reputation as serious jazzmen. Brad intonation as a trumpeter married with Eric Gunnison’s remarkable keyboard stylings reminds me of way I fell in with love contemporaryjazz in the first place.  

Lionheart, is a warm and cozy number that’s dedicated too Albert Pride of The features drummer Matt Houston’s toe tapping and foot stomping rhythms coupled with Eric Gunnison’s melodic keyboard artistry the duo gel seamlessly with the complex colors and textures. Brad’s soaring flugelhorn solos integrates nicely layer-by-layer allowing the composition to flow without boundaries.  

Brad honorably pays homage to the late jazz drummer Tony Williams with a cut entitled “For Tony Williams”. This track is a prime example of jazz-fusion in the purist form featuring the keyboard work of Eric Gunnison and drummer Matt Houston who overwhelmingly demonstrates his effectiveness as a drummist. Suddenly, I hear the jazz God’s whispering with applauds of approval from above. Bassist Barrosa compliments this tribute with his Jaco like runs inviting Brad and the crew to join in too consummate this inevitable groove. 

Black Crown features the keyboard mastery of Eric Gunnison; Eric softly dabbles into the synergy of the Fender Rhodes piano. Eric’s touch enunciates note for note without flaw drawing the listener into the transcending melodies anchored with fascinating execution of stellar musicianship by the Quartet. Black Crown is another fusion composition that encompasses Brad’s horn wrapped with the energy of the quartet’s interweaving solos again solidifying their mark as contemporaryjazz journeymen. Drummer Matt Houston is fascinating! 

Brad and company changes direction masterfully with a ballad penned by Upton titled For Oso, (is dedicated to Brad’s mother). Upton ultimately establishes his presence here assuring us that his hanging out in the woodshed has paid off and yes, he can indeed hold his own as a soloist.  

Blues For Hub charted by Upton is his tribute to jazz trumpet legend Freddie Hubbard. Brad’s solo’s soars into orbit with respect for the legendary Hubbard. The tune is bright and upbeat in tempo with a balance attack of exciting interplay and energetic solos by the crew.  

Brad’s description of the final selection titled “Never Forget This”: he said “I wanted too memorialize the magic of love and it’s primal importance in our fragile, tenuous lives, as a contrast to our learned complacency”.  Enuff said!! 

Lionheart is harmonically riveting, Brad successfully captures the imagination of the listener with each perching note, rhythmic shapes and colors therefore; making Lionheart compelling, a flawless listening experience, as soloist the Quartet conquers the complexities of each composition without predictability.  

Recommended for contemporaryjazz lovers everywhere!