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Irvin Mayfield

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IRVIN MAYFIELD

Just from the opening notes of New Orleans trumpeter Irvin Mayfield's new disc, How Passion Falls (Basin Street Records), you can tell that one of the Marsalises had a hand in it: unison horns scurry through a busy, flawlessly precise introductory phrase; a shift in tempo leads to the main theme; then another shift, this time in meter, leads to the solos. If the album didn't have "2001" printed on it, you'd swear Wynton had recorded it in the late 80s. As it turns out, two Marsalises were involved--Ellis guests on piano, and Delfeayo produced. The latter doubtless also contributed to the extravagant concept: How Passion Falls traces the arc of an affair, with pieces named for such storied lovers as "Othello & Desdemona" and "Adam & Eve." (On his own debut disc, trombonist Delfeayo modestly took his thematic scheme from the New Testament.) But don't let the package turn you off. For one thing, Mayfield's a helluva trumpet player: only 23, he has a big and malleable tone, ear-raising technique, and unshakable emotional poise. How Passion Falls bristles with focused musicianship, especially when Mayfield and saxist Aaron Fletcher hook horns in tightly rendered ensemble passages. Despite the lockstep neoclassicism that characterizes a good portion of the disc, Mayfield can subvert the mainstream format in intriguing ways, as he showed on two albums with Los Hombres Calientes, his faux-Latin band with drummer Jason Marsalis. Here he'll play with a quintet that includes most of the core group on the new disc, as well as with one of the album's guest stars: alto saxist Donald Harrison, who can nurture Mayfield's subtle subversive bent better than anyone. Perhaps more than any other New Orleans mainstreamer to come along since the Marsalis revolution, Harrison has beaten his own path, looking to such disparate sources as the west-coast cool sound of the 50s and the Mardis Gras Indian rhythms he's heard since childhood. With luck, his presence will encourage Mayfield to follow his muse, both at this show and in the future. Friday, February 9, 7:30 PM, Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln; 773-728-6000.

NEIL TESSER

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