He studied under educator/pianist Ellis Marsalis at the University of New Orleans and moved to New York City several years ago to pursue loftier horizons. With his debut release, trumpeter Mark Rapp fuses a contemporary, jazz-fusion slant with acoustic-based modern jazz pieces. It’s a balanced and thoroughly hip program, where he merges electric Miles wah-wah trumpet with Sly Stone type funk motifs to complement a few airy swing vamps. Rapp’s revved-up band generates sympathetic support as Jamie Reynolds effectively comps and stretches out via acoustic and electric keyboards in concert with the rhythm section’s snappy backbeats on the jazz/funk-rock numbers.
The preponderance of these works are designed with memorable hooks, driven home by the trumpeter’s lyrically-resplendent lines and the quartet’s sinuous unison breakouts. Rapp’s clever jazz-fusion recreation of the Strawberry Alarm Clock’s sugary pop hit "Incense and Peppermints," is a study in contrasts. Here, the artist morphs the primary melody into a cool and upbeat groove, enamored by variances in pitch and tempo. As the final two pieces "What Was" and "Sweet Serene," are constructed upon medium and briskly paced bop/swing underpinnings. In sum, Rapp doesn’t overstate his cause, which is a good thing. And it’s a highly-listenable program that conveys an appeasing blend of radio-friendly, finger-snapping compositions with exuberant modern jazz excursions.