Quentin Coaxum Quintet
- Quentin Coaxum — trumpet
- Artie Black — tenor sax
- Stu Mindeman — keys
- Andrew Vogt — bass
- Clif Wallace — drums
It’s not often one hears a debut album so clean, direct, smooth (but not smooth1), and focused. Young Chicago-based trumpeter Quentin Coaxum’s Current is definitely one of those rare soulfully strong debuts.
There’s a “less is more” sense here, that if Coaxum’s songs were just songs — things you can listen to, nod your head to, hum along to (or figure out how to comp if you’re not feeling confident enough), and actually enjoy — that if you put a bunch of them together into an album it might just work. There’s no intellectual pretensions, no “playing for other musicians”, or any of that auditory mess. Yet these songs don’t lack for sophistication, either. The beats make little flips, the key changes here and there, the ballads beats juuust perfect enough for Chicago stepping. It’s all such a great listen.
Stu Mindeman on keys in every regard — piano, Rhodes, Wurlitzer organ, synths — has a clean, steady hand throughout, the kind of playing that seems ready to hold down the choir on a Sunday morning after playing a gig that Saturday night. There were many moments throughout the album that were shades of Enoch Smith, Jr. in all the right ways. The same could be said of drummer Marcus Evans, whose work on the kit cannot be ignored, even when just holding the beat. Christian Dillingham on upright bass for a good two-thirds of the album does a good job rounding out the rhythm section. He’s a pure bassist in the jazz regard and it’s the perfect mix in this wide-ranging group. Brian Doherty on electric bass stays perfectly in pocket for the other third of the album and gets things a little funkier on his selections without adding much bombast. Yet the pairing of Coaxum’s horn with tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi is really something. The two sound great together. Rounding out the personnel is Jeff Swanson on guitars who also seems to add the same clean tone to every song he’s on. He can sound like Benson on a breezy afternoon much of the time which in part brings much of the soul that runs throughout Current. These guys aren’t flashy, they’re talented but know just when to hold back and when to lean in.