Ambrose Akinmusire: On The Tender Spot Of Every Calloused Moment

Editor's Choice

Rating: ★★★★

Record and Artist Details


Sam Harris (p)
Harish Raghavan (b)
Ambrose Akinmusire (t)
Justin Brown (d)


Blue Note


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Putting the extreme vulnerability and complexity of the African-American condition – with possible solace amid the sufferation – into a single title is by no means easy but the evocative construct, On The Tender Spot Of Every Calloused Moment, makes a good fist of it. Ambrose Akinmusire's fifth studio album finds the 38 year-old trumpeter in as reflective a mode as ever, asking questions about black identity and avoiding clichéd pathways just as he opts for musical roads less travelled.

Without the illuminating vocal contributions of 2018's excellent Origami Harvest, the spotlight falls on a quartet whose cohesion reflects a decade-long history, and, anchored by the outstanding drummer Justin Brown, it shines emphatically. Akinmusire has a distinctive way of creating ambiances of deep pathos without falling into overwrought sentimentality, and this blend of soft folds and sharp edges is compelling on songs such as ‘Reset.’ While the leader's patented way of moving from a hazy, smouldering low register to raking distortions, where a note scrape-struggles vividly into life, catches the ear the way the band creates a kind of suspension within motion, often with flickers of funk, is masterful. ‘Blues’ is also a highlight, musically and thematically, insofar as it gives Akinmusire a chance to present an original response to the bedrock of black music with subtle shades of expression that steer clear of expected tropes.

The political resonance of this work cannot be overstated, given the precarious circumstances for people of colour even before the age of covid-19, and both the concept and execution make Akinmusire a vital presence in contemporary creative music. With his articulate playing comes no end of provocative thinking.

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