Heflin's Morning Star
Bruce Von Stiers
Most jazz fans know that Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong, Chet Baker and Dizzy Gillespie paved the way for trumpeters to be known and appreciated. These horn players, and others such as Wynton Marsalis and Arturo Sandoval have also influenced the playing and composing of a whole new crop of jazz trumpeters.
One of those jazz trumpeters is Thomas Heflin. Although he has been performing and recording for a bit now, Heflin has yet to become a household name like Baker or Davis. But he is on the way. Especially with the new album that he has recorded.
This new album is titled Morning Star. It is a theme-based album, evoking a fictional late-night jazz radio show. Featuring a dozen songs, the album has a play time of just under an hour. It was released on the Blue Canoe Records label.
Complementing Heflin's trumpet playing on the album is a whole bunch of talented musicians. Gregory Tardy plays tenor and alto sax along with the bass clarinet. Dan Hitchcock is also on tenor sax and bass clarinet. Aaron Matson is on guitar and Steve Haines is on bass. Xavier Ware played the drums on the album and Jorge Luis Torres “Papiosco” provided percussion on a couple of songs. Peter Stoltzman played the piano and keyboards for the album.
There were vocals on a few of the songs on the album. The vocals were from Mavis “Swan” Poole and Ariel Pocock. And with the radio show theme, Brandon Robertson provided the voice of the D.J. / radio announcer.
The album begins with Radio Intro. This sets up the theme for the album with the radio DJ talking about the music and there is a sampling of songs including vocals by Mavis Poole. The D.J. talks about looking for the morning star, which is the last star seen before daybreak.
Then the album moves into the title track, Morning Star. It is a cool tune with a light, toe tapping beat that at times moves a bit faster, then slows back down. In information about the song, Heflin notes that the title relates to the Slavic translation of his wife's first name.
Self-Esteem is the third song on the album. It was written by James Williams, who Heflin studied under. Poole does the vocals on the song, which were written on top of the Williams instrumental by Pamela Baskin-Watson. It is a nice song about changing your life and becoming a better person.
Evensong begins with a nice and easy trumpet solo. It then moves into a moderately paced piece with a lot of sax.
That is followed by an Interlude that goes along with the radio show theme of the album, where there might be a bit of light jazz music between song selections.
Then there is a trumpet intro to the song, Haiku. As for the song, Haiku, it is a mild, toe tapper with some nice sax and trumpet in front of mellow drum and bass and guitar.
The listener is then treated to an interlude in the form of a Station Break with the radio D.J.
The Moon Singer is a mild song showcasing Heflin's trumpet. It is a song he says was inspired by a book of the same name that he reads to his daughter. This song features vocals by Pocock.
There is a reprise of the title track, Morning Star. This time, it has vocals from Poole.
Nearing the end of the album is Anna Breschine. It is a beautiful song whose title is actually the name of Heflin's daughter.
Closing out the album is the Radio Outro which features the D.J. and some subtle music. As this was structured like a late-night radio show, the song acts just like the close out and transition between D.J.'s and the end of a the press release for the album calls “a late-night car ride.”
This album was recorded near the start of the Covid pandemic and in a way is meant to portray a sort of beacon for hopefulness and positivity during times of great stress and helplessness.
Knowing the story behind the songs, I can understand and appreciate the theme. Even if I didn't know what the songs were about, I would still like the music. And I think the theme of a late-night radio show is really cool.
Morning Star is now out and can be found at most music retailers and streaming services.
You can watch a couple of videos featuring songs from the album on Thomas Heflin's web site along with the Radio Intro. That site is https://www.thomasheflin.com/
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© 2022 Bruce E Von Stiers