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Greg Kelley
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Greg Kelley
Greg Kelley

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Miles Davis, roll over in your grave and Ornette Coleman, grab something sturdy to hold onto, because Greg Kelley's about to do something mighty unholy to your beloved instrument, the trumpet. Improvisational wunderkinds, conservative lite-jazz seekers and thinking-in-the-box pleasure seekers, please take cover now. Mr. Kelley is about to undo everything you've ever learned or known about the trumpet.

Quite frankly, even invoking classic jazz musicians' names in this review does injustice to Kelley's work, as it's so far removed from anything contemporary that referencing other artists is a weak attempt at attempting to classify Trumpet. It's even a difficult task to attempt to describe the droning, squawking and screeching that's emitted from Kelley's instrument, as it's done in such an improvisational and atypical way that the only thing you can do is sit back and digest it all. Kelley pins you down as the untitled opening number underscores a surreptitious use of silence, calmly and intermittently broken by fettered tones. Through the use of a variety of classic and homemade crafted mutes, Kelley invokes another world of sounds via his horn -- a brass beast that he himself seems barely able to tame.

Other uncompromising and indeterminable numbers include "the eyelids play their games (or: tiny blue tongues of suffocated birds)", which alternates between a low humming and scratchy yelps, and " ----------------", which tests the limits of your aural patience with its extremity. Kelley carefully pushes his embouchure to its limit, creating masterpieces of experimental glory. After twenty-odd minutes of listening, you can't help but remind yourself that these compositions are made with a trumpet -- not a blender set on pulse thatís had a microphone dumped into its glass pitcher.

What's fascinating about Trumpet is its improvisational capacity. Unlike typical free form playing, Kelley's style not only verbalizes his thoughts, but also forces you to improvise yourself as you listen to his art. As silence sadistically stares you down on certain tracks, you can only hope to imagine what's going to shoot out of the dark and zip through your speakers. Will it be a calm, soothingly played note? Or a bit of unheralded, noisy genius that could only be conceived by Kelley? Sit back, listen up and see what's next. Trumpet is about as far out of the realm of contemporary melodies and choruses as anything you'll hear. You'll either balk at its extreme, atonal statements or happily agree to hear a brave new sound that tests the limits of everything you've learned about music.

-- Andrew Magilow
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