Artist: Darren English
Album: Imagine Nation
Label: Hot Shoe Records
Release Date: 03/11/2016
Uncluttered and unfazed by comparisons to elder statesmen (Nicholas Payton and Terrence Blanchard come to mind), trumpeter Darren English plays with your head with the opening title composition, a spinting piano powered (Kenny Banks, Jr.) romp from twilight mist to a late night cutting contest, setting you up with a fire and fervor you soon discover he can sustain.
Everyone and their mom has covered “Body and Soul,” but to get the full of effect of English’s intelligent, textural playing, listen as his luxuriant melodies brood and belie, instilling a lyrical sense of flight and fancy, bouyed by bassist Billy Thorton’s deep, rounded lines. Dizzy’s rumbling “BeBop” does just that grandly. His deep respect for jazz standards (his intuitive duets with Grammy winning Carmen Bradford on two tracks (especially “Skylark”) and his ecstatic ensemble play soaring with veteran trumpeters Greg Tardy and Russell Gunn on “Cherokee” and his own blistering “Bullet in the Gunn” fortify English as voice to listen for.
Though there are moments or two where he stumbles in content in the three part suite to Nelson Mandela, English, all of twenty-six and hearlding from Cape Town, South Africa, carries a great deal of jazz both past and present in his horn. And, with Imagine Nation, his debut release, you can hear it all in his warm, embracing, evolving tone, his winding originals, and his integrity, grace, and inventive-ness with ageless covers.
– Mike Jurkovic