Carmen Staaf, Ambrose Akinmusire On JazzSet From the Kennedy Center, the award-winning pianist Carmen Staaf and trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire catch listeners' attention.

Carmen Staaf, Ambrose Akinmusire On JazzSet

Carmen Staaf, Ambrose Akinmusire On JazzSet

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Carmen Staaf. Courtesy of Susan Doupe hide caption

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Courtesy of Susan Doupe

Carmen Staaf.

Courtesy of Susan Doupe

Staaf Set List

"Merry Go Round"

"45 Degree Angle" (Denzil Best)



* All by Staaf except where noted.

April is a big month for this week's JazzSet guests. Ambrose Akinmusire's new album, When the Heart Emerges Glistening, comes out the first week of the month, while Carmen Staaf's Eye to Eye arrives shortly thereafter. Here's a sneak peek at both emerging artists.

Staaf holds degrees in Anthropology and Music from Tufts University and the New England Conservatory of Music, respectively. She studied classical music in her home city of Seattle and, before going to college, studied salsa in Cuba. She plays piano and accordion, although to see her on the latter instrument, you'll have to go to a Lila Downs or Klezmatics show.

As the winner of the 2009 Mary Lou Williams Piano Competition, Staaf won a gig at the 2010 Mary Lou Williams Festival. The Washington Post wrote, "Staaf could have earned a small slot on the program on the strength of her technique alone. What stood out, though, were her compositions, particularly the fanciful 'Merry Go Round,' and her trio's fresh interpretation of Denzil Best's '45 Degree Angle,' a Williams favorite." Onstage, emcee Dee Dee Bridgewater complimented Staaf for her touch at the piano: "The future's in good hands with Carmen Staaf."

Carmen Staaf Trio: Carmen Staaf, piano; Kendall Eddy, bass; Austin McMahon, drums.

Ambrose Akinmusire. Clay Patrick McBride/Courtesy of Blue Note hide caption

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Clay Patrick McBride/Courtesy of Blue Note

Ambrose Akinmusire.

Clay Patrick McBride/Courtesy of Blue Note

Akinmusire Set List



"What's New?" (Burke, Haggart)

Ambrose Akinmusire won the Thelonious Monk International Trumpet Competition and the Carmine Caruso International Solo Trumpet Competition in the same year. Then he brought his quintet to the KC Jazz Club. Three-fifths of the personnel is the same on the new album, which DownBeat gives four stars with these strong words: "Clearly, something special and personal is at work here, a vision of jazz that is bigger than camps, broader and more intellectually restless than blowing sessions."

Akinmusire dedicates the opening song of his set to his grandmother, Ruby. It's her story, her grandson's dedication and a goodbye. "Henya" is on our set and the new album; it means "mirror" in Farsi. The simple melody is a palindrome. The trumpeter closes with a personal reading of a long-lived ballad. The Los Angeles Times calls Ambrose someone to watch in 2011.

"I have met Ambrose and have heard him live," Carmen Staaf says. "He plays with focused intelligence, intensity and beauty. I would love to make music with him sometime."

Ambrose Akinmusire Quintet: Ambrose Akinmusire, trumpet; Logan Richardson, saxophone; John Escreet, piano; Harish Raghavan, bass; Justin Brown, drums.