On this episode of the Sounds Visual Radio spinoff series How Deep Is Your Crate, Alex Pope Norris phoned in to talk about his newest release Chess Moves, and to share some favorite LP’s from his crates.
Many artists in many disciplines go about doing extraordinary, inspirational work with little fanfare, or aggrandizement. Trumpeter/composer/bandleader/educator Alex Pope Norris is one of these artists. However, the cognoscenti has long been fully aware of Norris’ prodigiousness, and it is high time the world got hip to an artist who has conquered the unwieldiness of the trumpet and brought forth music worthy of our attention in the process. Norris is a true melodicist, and an improvisor who eats up chord changes in a Freddie-like and Lee-like fashion. His solos have an easy elegance that belies their rigorous architecture. His technique doesn’t call attention to itself; instead of flashy showboating, his craftsmanship allows the busiest passages to develop without advertising the dexterity they require. All that, plus a lambent, radiant tone, makes him an exceptionally lyrical but no less fiery improviser.
Alex Pope Norris, who has appeared on over 100 recordings as a sideman (many of them on Steeplechase), now announces the release of his fourth album as a leader, and the much-anticipated follow up to his Steeplechase Records debut (Fleet From The heat), Chess Moves, featuring Norris’ “go-to Quintet” (now in their second decade of playing together), tenor saxophonist Ari Ambrose, pianist Rick Germanson (subbing for Jeremy Manasia), bassist Paul Gill and drummer Brian Floody. “When I’m put in a position to lead a band, these are my guys,” boasts Norris. “I should mention that we didn’t have a rehearsal for this date. That’s part of the reason I’m trying to write tunes that are easy to get into in the studio.”
The album’s title stems from Norris’ strategic, calculated approach to his life and career. The trumpeter explains, “I was just thinking that now that I am fifty-five and while I am still trying to grow in my career, it’s just not with the resilience I had when I was younger. So I feel like I have to really be conscious about the choices I make, and aware of the consequences, good and bad, of each move; very similar to playing chess!”
“I’m truly happy with the outcome of this recording. This and my previous SteepleChase recording represent my composition style and my deep love for straight -ahead jazz. I hope to present this side of my work more often in both the recording format and in live performance,” said Norris.