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With two new albums, trumpeter Darren Barrett gets funky and experimental

Trumpeter Darren Barrett has two new albums coming out in July
Judith Soberanes
Nick Loss-Eaton Media
Trumpeter Darren Barrett has two new albums coming out in July

After 25 years of recordings, trumpeter and composer Darren Barrett picks up his pace with two new albums coming July 12. His jazz inspirations both funky and experimental are connected by a common thread of rhythm.

The Toronto native earned a full scholarship to the Berklee College of Music in 1986, where he’s now a professor of jazz. His accolades include the top prize in the 1997 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition and performing on Esperanza Spalding’s Grammy-winning 2011 album Radio Music Society.

Barrett’s own recordings have come in a wide variety of styles: romantic standards, tributes to the Bee Gees and Amy Winehouse, a Christmas album and many recordings of his own wide-ranging compositions.

The two albums Barrett releases on July 12 show off two different, but connected, sides of this talented musician.

In the pocket

The first single from The Get Down 4 Real: Step Step Steppin’ is the album’s title song. Establishing the funk immediately, the single features Barrett using a wah-wah pedal on his trumpet, evoking 70s-era Miles Davis.

His rhythmic hook is answered by jabs of guitar and drums; then the clavinet bursts into a groove that will shake anyone on the dancefloor not already dancing.

The pocket is deep and it’s full, with keyboardists Santiago Bosch and Warren Petty, Jeffrey Lockhart on guitar, bass players Youngchae Jeong, Clara Moser and Paul Reinhold, Julian Miltenberg’s driving drumming with percussionist Judy Soberanes.

Jeong’s thick bass locks into the rhythm section while dancing around it with constantly twisting lines that never repeat.

That’s in contrast to Barrett’s trumpet melody, a simple phrase of three or four notes he uses to emphasize the beat over notes. The lines expand only slightly as the band reaches a crescendo, states a final melody and then ends suddenly.

Outer relms

In a much different setting, The Path to Our Truth from dB-ish, Barrett’s experimental band, is a new collection of musical conversations with electronic sounds from a primarily acoustic lineup.

Post-bop fusion is the starting point as the musicians explore and bounce ideas on the album’s title song, released as the first single.

Opening with glitchy keyboards sparkling into a pulsing beat, “The Path to Our Truth” emerges like a transmission from another world. Barrett’s trumpet blows in a few cautious notes before a crescendo that pushes electronic keyboards to drop notes into the mix like electronic rain.

The dB-ish band shares keyboardists Bosch and Petty with Jeong and Miltenberg at the bass and drums, each musician provoking and reacting to the improvisational flights of the others. The melodic center of the song takes a backseat to artistic passion without ever sounding out of control.

More to come

Barrett also has plans for a third album from yet another of his ensembles before the end of the year. Ride along with Barrett’s unending waves of inspiration, experimental and improvisational or funky and groovy. It’s quite a trip.

The New Cool airs Fridays at 9 p.m., hosted by Abe Beeson and produced by KNKX Public Radio in Seattle, Washington. LISTEN ON DEMAND

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Abe grew up in Western Washington, a third generation Seattle/Tacoma kid. It was as a student at Pacific Lutheran University that Abe landed his first job at KNKX, editing and producing audio for news stories. It was a Christmas Day shift no one else wanted that gave Abe his first on-air experience which led to overnights, then Saturday afternoons, and started hosting Evening Jazz in 1998.