A decade into his recording career, trumpeter Russell Gunn has done some substantive work, particularly with his series of Ethnomusicology CDs, now up to four volumes. And at age 33, Gunn has established himself as both a name brand in the jazz world and a worthy heir to a St. Louis-area trumpet tradition that has spawned such brass luminaries as Clark Terry, Lester Bowie and Miles Davis.
Like Davis, Gunn hails from the east side, apprenticed under master musicians before striking out on his own and has drawn the ire of some purist critics and listeners for mixing electric instruments and contemporary rhythms with jazz. But, again like Davis, Gunn has been resolute about following his own artistic path, and even with occasional misfires his ever-evolving blend of jazz, hip-hop turntablism and sampling, and Afro-Cuban and Brazilian elements has continued to provide fruitful new ground for musical exploration.
As a soloist Gunn occasionally displays a bit of Miles' elliptical, hide-and-seek reticence, and perhaps there's a bit of Don Cherry's skittering bob-and-weave in there too. But most often he sounds like a modern-day heir to hard-boppers like Freddie Hubbard and Lee Morgan, matching the relentless rhythm section's swagger with his own. Though he's not gotten as much publicity as some other young trumpet players with better press agents, Gunn has been a musician worth following for some time now. And though he now hangs his hat in Atlanta after a number of years in New York, Gunn's return to his old hometown should provide a welcome opportunity for longtime fans, friends and family to chart his recent progress and get a taste of possible future developments.