Though not exactly a new face on the scene -- Akinmusire played with Joshua Redman, Steve Coleman and Billy Higgins before he was even old enough to vote -- the 28-year-old trumpeter has enjoyed such a steady rise that he seems practically predestined for a breakout in 2011.
Born and raised in the Bay Area, Akinmusire has ties to both coasts after studying jazz at the Manhattan School of Music and completing his master's at USC. Winner of the Thelonious Monk Institute's International Jazz Competition in 2007, his list of recent collaborators reads something like a who's who of contemporary jazz, including Vijay Iyer, Stefon Harris, Wayne Shorter and Christian McBride. A debut album in 2008 on the same small label that helped launch the early careers of Brad Mehldau and Ethan Iverson further captured fans' ears with a band that featured genre-bending pianist Aaron Parks.
Though the music industry's ongoing struggles often make news of a young artist jumping to a major label seem almost quaint, Akinmusire's signing to Blue Note Records last summer sent ripples of excitement through the online jazz community. Co-produced by new label mate Jason Moran, "When the Heart Emerges Glistening" will be released April 5 and features the same airtight group Akinmusire brought to a jam-packed Cafe Metropol this fall.
In a tune-up performance before heading into the studio for his Blue Note debut, Akinmusire and his band demonstrated a remarkably fluid, adventurous interplay and patiently imaginative way with melody that sounded as steeped in the music's history as it was hard-wired with the sound of something new. With a chameleonic tone that can sigh, flutter or soar, Akinmusire sounds less like rising star than one that was already at great heights and just waiting to be discovered.
For The Record: An earlier version of this slide indicated that Akinmusire was born in Nigeria. He was born and raised in Oakland, Calif.