Brian Lynch finds inspiration in honoring his fellow trumpeters. His 2000 disc, Tribute to the Trumpet Masters, was a career highlight, featuring four songs composed by other trumpeters along with five Lynch originals that have titles (and musical flourishes) that directly or indirectly pay homage to his kindred spirits in brass. Unsung Heroes Vol. 1 adopts a similar approach, only this time Lynch honors more obscure trumpeters — among them, Tommy Turrentine, Louis Smith and Kamau Adilifu. Where Lynch was the sole horn player in a quartet setting on Masters, this time out he stacks the front line with altoist Vincent Herring and tenor Alex Hoffman in a sextet and septet configuration, and favors punchy unison horn arrangements reminiscent of his days with Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers.
Herring proves a good match for Lynch right out of the gate, on Joe Gordon's "Terra Firma Irma." (A former cohort of Blakey's and a member of Dizzy Gillespie's big band, Gordon died in a fire in the early '60s at the age of 44.) Herring's phrases, like Lynch's, are angular and aggressive, his tempo varied and self-assured, and he swings and bops in equal measure. Pianist Rob Schneiderman also stands out, pushing the pace with the sort of innovative surge-and-glide that separates this ensemble from standard-issue hard bop. Bassist David Wong plays with a pleasing mixture of low-end throb and upper-register accents. And Lynch himself, into his 50s now, has become more resourceful on ballads and midtempo numbers, as he shows on both Turrentine's "I Could Never Forget You" and in his compositional and flugelhorn tribute to Claudio Roditi, "Roditisamba."
There are three discs' worth of material from this project, including outtakes, available (for a slightly higher price) on Lynch's own website. Suffice to say that paying dues to forebears who have influenced him is an abiding desire for the trumpeter. He knows better than anyone how this becomes a fecund history lesson, as the passionate, well-considered music inevitably inspires the next generation of players.