1) 26-2 – John Coltrane 2:41
2) Mr BarNorian (for Gary Norian) – Jim Trompeter 7:24
3) How Deep is The Ocean – Irving Berlin 6:22
3) Lazy Afternoon – John Letouch/Jerome Moross 7:25
4) It’s Only A Paper Moon – Harold Arlen 6:35
5) Quatrosh – Jim Trompeter 4:27
6) Every Time We Say Goodbye – Cole Porter 7:08
7) The First Tee – Jim Trompeter 6:20
8) A Very Long Time – Jim Trompeter 6:27
10) The Path Proper – Jim Trompeter 6:57
11) Dharma John – Jim Trompeter 3:27
This CD represents a myriad of recording sessions and jazz sounds from various periods – showing myself as Pianist, composer, and arranger in a variety of settings. The original pieces feature some wonderful artists, Paul Wertico, Steve Rodby, Rick Margitza, Mark Walker and Andy Snitzer – whose performances were magical. I wish to also note the wonderfully musical playing on the trio material by Eric Hochberg and Mike Raynor, both such beautiful jazz artists. A word of praise to Rick Fritz the top notch engineer, whose Mastering skillfully combined many dispirit musical performances together into this one CD.
In 1971, while hosting my Sunday night jazz program at the Northwestern University radio station in Evanston, Illinois, I got a call from a young listener – the voice sounded like that of maybe a 10-year-old girl – requesting I “play some John Coltrane.” Pretty savvy for a kid that age, I thought; I happily fulfilled the request, dedicating it to the anonymous young lady. The phone rang, and the same voice thanked me but explained that he was not a girl (his voice hadn’t yet begun to change). And that’s how I met Jim Trompeter.
He loved jazz even then, thanks to his grandmother’s infatuation with recordings of West Coast pianist Pete Jolly. It didn’t hurt that both Grandma and Trompeter’s mother studied jazz piano at the Alan Swain Studios – which in those days represented the hotbed of jazz training in sleepy Evanston – or that the kid’s father was Jay Trompeter, a Chicago deejay and radio announcer, (Music lived in that household.) Jim called almost every week to keep me posted on his piano lessons; when I left college and moved to Chicago’s public-radio station, he kept in touch. I heard about his acceptance to the University of Miami, and he updated me whenever he visited home during Christmas and spring breaks. In the early 80s, he told me he had joined a Miami pop band with a local hit called “Conga”; that’s when I first heard the name Gloria Estefan and Miami Sound Machine, then on the verge of the international success that kept them (and their new pianist) on the road for the next three years.
Trompeter headed home to the Chicago area in the early 90s and set up shop as a writer of commercial jingles in the competitive arena of Chicago advertising. As the jingle biz started to wane, he moved to the next front line of music-for-hire, joining WMS, maker of high-end slot machines and other games (where he still works at this writing). But none of this ever pulled him far from the music that first captured his attention. He’s continued to perform several times a year at Chicago’s famed Green Mill, sitting in with Kurt Elling’s group, backing saxist Dave Liebman (a champion of his playing), but most often directing his own quartets and quintets. And finally he’s decided to share his music via CD. “I sat on the fence a long time, not believing I should have anything out there,” he muses; hearing these tracks should have you scratching your head as to why.
Trompeter plays with enviable technique and a kinetic energy that sends his notes flying from the keyboard – energy that derives from his balanced touch, his controlled attack, and the force of his musical intellect. Even on slower performances, his finely wrought lines have a larger-than-life charisma, as if straining at the seams of the song structure that contains them; at quicktime, they threaten to surround the listener, taking no prisoners. Underneath it all, lies the touchstone of Trompeter’s music, a ferociously encyclopedic harmonic imagination.
In a way, this album presents a capsule history of his development, starting with a classic tune by his early idol Coltrane, moving on to the standards he cut his teeth on, and then to his own compositions. The instrumentation mirrors that evolution: the first tracks feature piano trio, the earliest setting for his music, while later songs unveil the larger and varied ensembles he eventually learned to write for. Yet even in this more contemporary portion of the disc, Trompeter includes a few trio performances and one standard – a reminder that despite his broader horizons, his earliest experiences continue to yield new insights.
While the trio material shows off his improvising, Trompeter’s originals provide as true a picture of his creative process: in them, cold hard theory blossoms into melody and emotion. For instance, Trompeter explains, “A Very Long Time” took nearly two years to write because “it’s based on an idea of floating major chords over a pedal tone, and I had to find the tune that fit on that progression.” That’s the hard theory; the result is a song that rolls with the urgent grace of Pat Metheny’s compositions. “Quatrosh” was inspired by the compositions of Danilo Perez and the piano style of Joey Calderazzo, along with a desire “to include something harmonically complex”; the melody fits the complexity beneath, but without succumbing to it. “Dharma John” is dedicated to Trompeter’s mentor in Buddhism, which the pianist adopted in the early-90s – “It’s one of my favorite songs, because it tells a story in such a short time” – and in fact, the titles “Path Proper” and Wakefulness also speak to Buddhist principles.
Back in 1972, I can’t pretend to have known – when my 11-year-old fan called the studio to excitedly tell me, “My mom says I can take jazz piano lessons!” – where Jim Trompeter’s talent would lead him. But he didn’t know either. During his teens, he played music but he also played records on the high-school radio station, and told me recently, “Actually, I wanted to be like you.” Funny how four decades or so can turn all that around; listening to this long overdue album, I just want to be like him.