Stéphane Belmondo ‘The same as it never was before’ (Verve) 4/5

French musician Stéphane Belmondo belongs to the sensitive school of jazz trumpeters that includes luminaries such as Art Farmer, Kenny Wheeler and of course Chet Baker. The mid-tempo waltz ‘You and I’ is a delicious cover of a Steve Wonder tune while a more esoteric left-field piece is ‘Habiba’ with pared down sound, pianist Kirk Lightsey here performing on flute and this has all the feel of a mid-1960s Yusef Lateef composition. Belmondo excels on the mid-paced numbers where he alternates between flugelhorn and trumpet with a relaxed atmosphere on the Chet Baker influenced piece ‘Light upon Rita’ with modal bass intro. That said, when required the excellent quartet can deliver a thrilling uptempo number as illustrated on Wayne Shorter’s ‘United’ with the famous main theme played simply by Belmondo plus bass and drums. A melancholic quartet performance on ‘Haunting by now’ rounds off a fine listening album. Tim Stenhouse