NEW YORK CITY, N.Y. – Stuart Mack is a trumpeter and composer based in New York who is rapidly rising through the ranks of top-tier musicians. At a point in life where many people would just be starting their careers, Mack has already carved a name for himself with some of today’s leading jazz ensembles and musicians. Having worked with jazz groups and legends such as David Liebman, Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, Romero Lubambo, Jihye Lee Orchestra, and the Mike Holober Group, and a plethora more, Mack’s prowess and ability have heralded him rightly-lauded acclaim across the international jazz world. Now, after years of honing his presence and identity as a musician, Mack presents Vibrations, a debut that is woven throughout with the artistic thread that first and foremost shows the deep longing within the human soul for beauty that music can satisfy.

Vibrations was by no means an overnight work. Mack, being a musician of the rising generation, has spent the past decade forming his musical persona, shifting in and out of settings from which he took note of the brilliance he loved and integrated it into his style. Notably, from his collegiate experiences in the early 2010s with the multi-GRAMMY nominated One O’clock Lab Band at the prestigious University of North Texas and the Disneyland All-American College Band, Mack had a high-speed sampler of jazz across the country. During that same time, Mack won first place in the International Trumpet Guild competition in 2015, placed 2nd in the Jazz Division of the 2014 National Trumpet Competition, was chosen as a 2014 Yamaha Young Performing Artist, and landed a finalist placement in the 2013 Carmine Caruso International Jazz Trumpet Competition. It is from these wealth of incomparable moments, combined with his ongoing rapport with the heroes of the genre contemporarily, that Mack has artfully blended influences to create a unique and poignant color palette of nuanced stylings, both in his performance and writing. Vibrations thus chronicles this journey of artistry and, in many ways, plays like an autobiography of Mack’s progression into the musician that he is today.

The album, and likewise the title track, derives its name not from science, other art, or phenomenon, but from a single, eye-opening experience by the bandleader. In 2020, wading knee-deep in the global pandemic, Mack had an opportunity to be in the audience of a live music performance for the first time in eight months. This moment was a reawakening of the soul. After having gone from participating in and listening to live music daily to hearing none at all for such a stretch of time, the performance Mack attended proved to be particularly evocative of the heart. “The vibration that filled the room made me remember the importance of music as a human connector,” Mack says.

For Mack, the unique presence and personality of each musician on the record were paramount to bringing the music to life. This is particularly evident in the vibrance and unity the ensemble brings to each tune. “Almost everything you hear off the record is each individual musician’s personal take on my music,” Mack says. “I was intentionally basic with my lead sheets and how I described my tunes – this left a lot of room for interpretation.” Mack’s prioritization of the individuality of each musician pays off and is a testament both to his trusting vision as a leader and the prowess of the band. In addition to Mack on trumpet and flugelhorn, the ensemble boasts the ranks of Alejandro Aviles (saxophones, flute), Manuel Valera (piano), Adi Meyerson (bass), and GRAMMY-winner Dan Pugach (drumset)

The album opens up with an introductory prelude to the title track, “Vibrations”, followed by the track itself, setting the thematic stage for the listener to expect the undertones of Mack’s concept of music as the human connector. This is followed by “Beets”, a buoyant piece that began initially as just a melody in the composer’s head before evolving into the jubilant work it ultimately became. Humorously, Mack tells of how the piece earned its name: “Around the time I was writing this piece was when I had beetroots for the first time,” he says. “I loved the vegetable so much and realized that the feeling of the song well represented how I felt when I discovered beets.” A notable tone shift on the album is “When Breath Becomes Air”, which captures the humanity within music from a different angle. This piece was composed under the age-old inspiration of a tight deadline, where Mack had but three days to create a new tune for a gig. Much to his chagrin, after two days, he found himself empty-handed, but with a headful of ideas after reading the autobiographical book “When Breath Becomes Air” by Paul Kalanithi. “The book is a heartbreaking yet inspiring story where Paul was diagnosed with terminal cancer and wrote the book as a memoir during the remainder of his life,” Mack explains. “During the third night I finished the book and went to sleep shortly after. I woke up the next morning feeling solemn and wrote the song right before the rehearsal for the gig.” After thinking through a variety of titles, Mack decided weightedly to name the piece after the book, in honor of the late Kalanithi. The penultimate piece on the album is entitled “Different Realities”, and stands as an exemplary model for Mack’s deep emphasis on the ensemble’s individual personalities. During rehearsals, this piece never felt organic and didn’t quite meld. Mack had all but decided to cut it from the session. On their final day in the studio, however, the band found themselves with a little extra time and decided to try the piece one final time. Before starting the take, each member of the band took a moment to contribute their thoughts on what they could offer in interpreting the piece. The end result is the mastery of a collective mind, as the track went from being a hesitant afterthought to one of the most ebullient moments on the record. “This track would not be what it is now without the band’s input,” Mack praises.

From brilliance pours forth brilliance, and thus it is no surprise that a musician so emblazoned with acclaim should create such a potent presentation of sound and soul. With Vibrations, Mack attests boldly and colorfully that music and beauty are virtues deep within the human heart. By encapsulating each so powerfully, he speaks the language of humanity with such clarity that it cannot help but resonate and reverberate down to the aorta of each listener.

Vibrations releases on May 17th, 2024.