the imagined savior is far easier to paint

Amrbose Akinmusire
(Blue Note)

Usually, referring to a jazz artist’s “stretching out” implies improvisation. Trumpeter Akinmusire’s new release shows him stretching compositionally as well. He augments his quintet on some pieces with guitar, string quartet or vocalists, creating varied musical textures. Opening gently with a piano duet, “Marie Christie,” he moves to “As We Fight” with sextet, the drums splitting the difference between martial and funk. The strings appear on “Our Basement,” “The Beauty of Dissolving Portraits” and the epic, 16-minute closer, “Richard (conduit).” Unlike some jazz albums, where strings are used as sweetener, here they play a crucial and emotional role. “Rollcall for Those Absent” is chilling ­— a girl’s recitation of the names of needless victims of police and vigilante killings (Trayvon Martin and others) over a jarring pair of synthesizers. “Imagined savior” is challenging, provocative, always powerful music, defying categorization.