Twenty-eight-year-old trumpeter Russell Gunn is causing quite a stir in the jazz world. A recent New York Post review of one of his concerts said "Gunn has a seriousness of purpose, focus and clarity." This year, he earned a Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Jazz Performance.
Jazz wasn't Russell Gunn's first love. It was rap. As a kid growing up in East St. Louis, Illinois, Gunn modeled himself after rap star L.L. Cool J. He even made up his own rap songs in an effort to outdo the rap he heard on the radio. Gunn began playing trumpet in the fourth grade, but it wasn't until college that he discovered jazz.
Gunn's big break came in 1994, when he was invited to perform in the Wynton Marsalis oratorio "Blood On The Fields." That same year, Russell released his first solo album, "Young Gunn." His hip-hop skills were soon put to the test when Wynton's brother Branford Marsalis hired Gunn to tour and record with his acid-jazz group "Buckshot LeFonque".
Russell Gunn has recorded five albums since going solo. His earlier albums are influenced by rap and hip-hop, a sharp contrast to the straight-ahead jazz on his new album "Smokin' Gunn."
"Memory of Waterford" was written by saxophonist Bruce Williams, a member of Russell Gunn's quintet on "Smokin' Gunn." Also included are five originals by Gunn, a tune by John Coltrane and this Wynton Marsalis piece called "Delfeayo's Dilemma."
Rounding out Gunn's New York-based quintet are Marc Cary on piano, Eric Revis on bass and Terreon Gully on drums. On Wednesday, December 13, Gunn returned to his native East St. Louis for a four night engagement at "Jazz at the Bistro."