This is Imer Santiago’s first album as a bandleader. And he heaped a lot on his plate. The jazz trumpeter is, 37, a native of Ohio and was educated at the University of Ohio and the University of New Orleans. He built his name in Nashville where he is a key player. “Hidden Journey,” due out the 24th of September on Jazz Music City-based in Nashville-is a mix of blues, post-bop and Latin Jazz.
The album epitomizes what is happening on Nashville’s growing jazz scene. The album is loaded with guest spots from some of the city’s top jazz musicians. Trumpeter Rod McGaha and saxophonist Rahsaan Barber are probably the most well-known. Santiago did not use this first outing as a dry run. He went all out, and it paid off.
“Hidden Journey” works in part because of the excellent production work of Rahsaan Barber, the owner of Jazz Music City. Santiago and Barber co-arranged the 11 cuts on “Hidden Journey”. It appears Santiago and Barber locked themselves in a studio and vowed not to leave until they had made a flawless album. If that was their goal, they achieved it because this album is free of any imperfections.
Santiago blew the safe door open on “Girls’ Night Out,” a blues he wrote. On it, he played as if he took pointers from drummer Art Blakey’s how-to-swing-playbook. That cut is followed by two other destroyers “Fourthcoming,” and “Flat 2176”.
After the third cut, you have to turn off the album to catch your breath. Yes, it is that highly charged. But you will not want to keep it off for long. Santiago is a gifted and a self-assured trumpeter. “Hidden Journey” is a superior jazz album you would expect from a veteran session leader not a first-timer.