Kelley Bolduc has made quite a name for herself in the last 20 years as the lead singer and trumpet player for her reggae band Hot Like Fire. On her new solo album, simply titled More Trumpet, Bolduc indulges her creativity and showcases a high skill level on her instrument, offering her listeners something that stands alone as a bold statement of her musical abilities. These 12 instrumental tracks speak volumes about what this young lady can do with her horn.
Opening with her title track “More Trumpet,” Bolduc shows how she can ride a thumpy bass groove with the greatest of ease. Her horn line boogies over the open spaces created by her rhythm section. Her instrument hops joyfully with hip timing, her trumpet breathing with lively emotive qualities that make the listener feel what she was likely feeling when she composed this. Most importantly, Bolduc also makes the listener feel how much she treasures her trumpet by the way she plays it so dashingly and vibrantly.
Composed by her keyboardist Matt Jenson, “Half Chop” lets Bolduc show what she can do with an easeful groove. While the groove bubbles beneath her, keyboards swagger beside her with island charm, she unfurls a breezy melodic line that dances beautifully with the notes bopping around. Bolduc’s largest accomplishment on this track, though, is in the colors she creates with her horn. Her vibrant trumpet line expands its shine and flavors as she moves along, especially when she gives it some lift, making an interval of notes spiral upwards, spiritually, musically, and happily.
Bolduc’s “If I Can’t Be With You” features a steel pan which sounds like a quirky keyboard tuned to island flavored melodies. She unleashes a breathy, thin line of horn melody that snakes around the sprightly keyboard rhythm, and the whole thing comes together like a pastry shop tune, sweet, delightful, and easy to digest. This will probably be the one Bolduc releases to reggae and Ska and stations around the world.
“Black Orpheus” by Luiz Bonta finds Kelley blowing a muted line that keeps its tension just below the surface. The self-restraint makes her horn even more potent, and some eccentric piano and organ lines around her make this an eye in the hurricane number, a piece that feels calm and tense at once, depending on what side of the horn line one is on. That juxtaposition is also what makes this number chug with locomotive force.
“Marcus Garvey” lets Bolduc blow vibrant, sprawling lines over a jaunty groove. Contrasting her swaying melodic phrase with this number’s bouncy piano line is a masterstroke. It makes the tune swell with more tasteful nooks and crannies, tight spaces she plays her trumpet lines inside of while the other players challenge her to find those spaces. This is the kind of number Bolduc would play during the liveliest part of the night, getting everybody on the dance floor at once as this piece offers numerous motivational drives.
“Swing Easy” doesn’t sound easy to play. Bolduc’s trumpet line runs, hops, skips, and jumps through an interesting soundscape. Her melodic line seems to shout from a mountain top until it is surrounded by snappy lead guitar lines, thumpy percussion, and jumpy keyboards. That is where she manouvers her trumpet through a myriad of instrumentation, sailing around it all in a tight, pleasant accompaniment.
“Yeah (Zouk)” finds Bolduc playing in a pure, party vive mode. Her melodic line blows forward in enticing spirals while some vocalists holler “yeah,” a call to party. This bright peppy tune is all right with the world and the trumpet lets us know it with its joyful expressions. Likewise, “Iron Lion Zion” by the late great Bob Marley makes a case for celebratory events and life itself. Van Martin Gordon injects an electrifying lead guitar line to give this joy fest a rocking edge, and his six string makes a perfect dance partner to the Bolduc trumpet line that continuously soars every higher.
“Skokiaan” has a jam feel, with each player coming into the groove with easeful motions. Here, Bolduc hops, skips, and jumps over a persistent groove, a groove that requires her to keep moving her melodic line at a brisk pace. She pulls of this feat while keeping her trumpet line sound fresh, full, and vibrant. Bolduc proves herself to be one of those local artists who make us wish that local artists could afford to put out a box set of their music so we can listen to them all day long and make a project out of savoring all of their various styles and techniques.
“Swing Easy Dub” announces itself with wide, majestic sweeps of horn before subduing itself into an easeful flow with knobby bass underpinnings, which is how it differs from its earlier interpretation on this CD. This tune’s flourishes of keyboard snap, brittle guitar phrasing, and rhythm section quaintness paints a colorful picture. The little things all add up to a big, juicy whole.
“Marcus Garvey Dub” takes Bolduc’s previous interpretation from this album and throw it over the top. Its thumpy bass line feels likes its notes are being pressed out by very talented fingers. Bolduc blows out a myriad of single notes that are pushy, sweet, and fun. The listener can sense the band having fun with this one. Its busy, compact notes amidst tight ensemble work make one envision a heck of a party going on in the studio.
Bolduc concludes this solo album with “Puakenikeni.” Named after an expensive, kingly Hawaiian flower, this piece is much gentler than the aggressive horn pieces that proceeded it. This time around Bolduc is blowing out a tender, subdued melody accompanied by an acoustic guitar. While her trumpet melody swings far and wide from the acoustic guitar and some percussion parts, its gentle nature makes it their perfect companion. It also shows the wide array of possibilities with Bolduc’s horn.
Bolduc has come up with a masterwork of instrumental music to showcase her exquisite skills as a trumpeter. She has wisely selected some standards to share her tastes and showcase her work with new arrangements. Most importantly, her original compositions reveal a truly superb musician in the larger sense of the word. Bolduc is a first rate artist on all levels.