There’s a wealth of family and cultural pride amidst the serious jazz grooves on Darren Barrett’s newly released seventh album, “Trumpet Vibes.” For the first time in his award-winning career, the trumpeter-composer-producer explores his Jamaican roots on a recording project. Adeptly, the Boston-based artist from Toronto introduces good-time reggae rhythms and frenzied ska beats native to his parents’ Caribbean homeland to hard bop and swinging jazz on the eight-song set that he produced and wrote four new compositions.
A charismatic companion to engage in meaningful discourse and occasionally play foe to his astute trumpet play, Barrett selected the vibraphone to share the spotlight as a featured “voice” throughout the session, with noted vibes soloist Warren Wolf guesting on a pair of tracks to participate in improvisational banter with a young trio comprised of vibist Simon Mouillier and brothers Alexander and Anthony Toth on bass and drums respectively. Also of significance is that Barrett opens the session by saluting his late mentor, trumpet great Donald Byrd, on the chirpy swinger “Fly Little Bird.” Interesting to hear him ply the jazz-meets-reggae motif to pop gems such as the regal “To Sir With Love” and amorous overtures like David Gates’ “Everything I Own” and Stevie Wonder’s “My Cherie Amour.” Barrett shines on his own compelling compositions, including the moody and murky “Chiapas”; the deliberate “Song For A Princess,” on which he takes his time – nearly seven minutes - to bop and blow while cruising a laidback island wave; “Phantom dB” that gets a jarring jolt of rock & roll drumming and some dissonant trumpet distortion; and the slightly more conventional straight-ahead jazz foray “The Club Up The Street” that wraps the disc.
When not working on his own craft, Barrett is developing the next generation of jazz musicians as an educator at the esteemed Berklee College of Music, which is where he recruited the dynamic backing trio on “Trumpet Vibes.” Winner of the prestigious Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition in 1997, Barrett has played or recorded with hall of famers Roy Hargrove, Elvin Jones, Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock as well as Grammy-winning neo jazz adventurist Esperanza Spaulding.