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Comfortable in New Orleans: Cyrus Nabipoor leads quintet in 'Live at the Marigny Opera House'

Cyrus Nabipoor is now based in Portland

A young trumpeter based in Portland, Oregon, with a strong sentimental link to New Orleans (he's a magna cum laude graduate of Loyola University), Cyrus Nabipoor took a quintet into the former church in 2019 to play his compositions for a concert audience.

"Live at the Marigny Opera House" (Nabipoormusic@gmail.com) documents that comfortable hometown visit to a cultural venue that was a Catholic church from 1853 until the diocese  closed it in 1997.  In its repurposed function, it has been called the Marigny Opera House since 2011

For 144 years, the Marigny was a church.

The resonance in the recording is slightly churchy,  and the setting seems copacetic for the music. The venue's original use is alluded to in "There Is a Light That Never Goes Out," one of two tunes borrowed for a concert otherwise featuring Nabipoor compositions. 

The comfort zone is settled into, but there's no resting in the hackneyed for these adept musicians. "What Is This," which opens the disc asking that perpetually valid question, alternates fast and slow sections smoothly. The introduction to Nabipoor's solo trumpet is inviting, and tenor saxophonist Brad Walker is at ease over the horn's full range, favoring occasional deep dives into the low register.

The front line is quite compatible in ensemble, whether playing the theme in unison ("Hipody") or in close parallel harmony a la Mexican pop (Javier Navarrete's "Pan's Labyrinth Lullaby," introduced by the leader's unaccompanied bugle-call evocations). 

Spirited humor bubbles to the surface easily in "Huckleberry Madness." A country barn-dance atmosphere casts occasional glimpses toward some guitar shredding from George Wilde, whose playing increasingly embodies the "madness" in the title. Wilde settles for an accompaniment role in the set-closer, "NOK Blues." Its skipping bounce tempo folds in successive, bright solos from Nabipoor, Walker, New Orleans double-bass fixture James Singleton, and drummer Brad Webb, offering a parade-ground summing up.  

The conciseness with which the quintet states its case is admirable. There are a few times that the pieces seem to conclude too abruptly ("NOK Blues" is an exception), but that practice offers welcome relief from the norm of the stretched-out small-group jazz common over the past half-century.  The ingratiating melodic profile of Nabipoor's music and its avoidance of overstatement make this an attractive disc.


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