John McNeil: Have Trumpet, Will Triumph

Quite a character, this John McNeil. Recently got to spend some time with the fascinating Brooklyn trumpeter for a DownBeat profile. Between the quips and the ideas, I quickly became a fan. A mix of wit and glee is fetching, one reason why Team McNeil – playing Thursday night at Puppets with Kenny Pexton as a tenor foil – has seemed so inspired of late. The recent Chill Morn, He Climb Jenny (Sunnyside) is the pip that lots of crits say it is, blending West Coast nuggets (Russ Freeman, Chet Baker) with East Coast abstractions, and wiggling with aplomb through the barbs of retrofuturism. Hey, the maestro’s between-tune banter alone is worth the price of admission.

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