"Flying High," the new album by trumpeter Vaughn Nark, should be stamped with the following disclaimer: "Buckle Up Before Playing." After all, Nark and the Airmen of Note have quite a ride in store for fans of fiery and fulgent big band charts laced with skyscraping trumpet solos.
A lifelong admirer of Dizzy Gillespie and a member of the Air Force ensemble for 15 years, Nark possesses rare technique and stamina. He's a master navigating the rarefied atmosphere above double high C, as he often demonstrates here, beginning with the album's opening track, "Lorraine." While he's not always reaching for the stratosphere -- his fluegelhorn playing on the Freddie Hubbard ballad "Brigitte" quickly reveals his more soulful side -- there's no shortage of nosebleed excursions that would leave most trumpeters gasping for air or looking for another gig.
Even so, Nark's performances on "Flying High" don't come off sounding like exercises in idle virtuosity. Mike Crotty, who arranged most of the music, has fashioned a series of big band charts that fully exploit the Airmen of Note's considerable resources. As a result, the treatments of "Red Clay," "Con Alma," "It Could Happen to You" and other pop and jazz standards spread out the sonic pleasures by accommodating several talented soloists and showcasing the ensemble's vitality and warmth.
Appearing Monday at Blues Alley. To hear a free Sound Bite from Vaughn Nark, call Post-Haste at 202/334-9000 and press 8126. (Prince William residents, call 690-4110.)