Mark Rapp: Token Tales

Token Tales

Critically-loved debut recording by Mark Rapp

Modern jazz, groove jazz… whatever you call it, it’s damn good music.

Songs include:
Who’s the Man?
’Nuff Time
Thank You
Mr. Tricky
Cissy Strut
Token Tales
Incense and Peppermints
1st Minute, 1st Round
My Place
It Should Be
What Was
Sweet Serene

Song samples and downloads



One could argue that Mark Rapp follows the trails laid by such trumpeters as Miles Davis, Randy Brecker and Rick Braun. That all might be true, but Rapp is also establishing his own mark in jazz.
One of Down Beat magazine’s top jazz trumpeters of 2007, Rapp mostly performs original music alongside his own arrangements of previously recorded material. Accompanying him on his debut album are Jamie Reynolds on piano and keyboards, Gavin Fallow on electric and acoustic bass, and Kyle Struve on drums. Rapp also plays the didgeridoo.

“Who’s the Man?” sets the stage for things to follow. This groove features the entire ensemble, and although Rapp carries the lead, Fallow’s funky bass line and Struve’s hi-hat skills figure prominently. Reynolds enjoys a brief keyboard solo, but mostly, this song is about the music itself and not any individual player.

“Mr. Tricky” is a playful stroll with Rapp adding electronic effects to his trumpet so that at times, it sounds as if two horns are playing. The rhythm section is sharp, as it is throughout with at one point, Rapp engaging in dialogue with Reynolds, and during the keyboard solo, Struve showing off on the drum kit.

More musical movement comes through on “Cissy Strut.” The bass and drums are more emphatic as Rapp leads, but more subtle during Reynolds’ piano solo. The melody gives the sense of moving through the city, with occasional pauses to determine which path to take.

The band puts an interesting spin to the pop classic “Incense and Peppermints.” It starts off slowly, with Rapp performing a solo introduction before the piece takes off. After a verse, the music softens while Rapp solos, ushering in one of the ensemble’s more shining moments. The break sounds like a completely different song, with Rapp’s trumpet wailing at times. Throughout, Reynolds, Fallow and Struve add even more punch, before the band settles back into the melody.

The didgeridoo is broken out for “1st Minute, 1st Round,” an off-the-beaten path selection which perfectly complements the electronic sound of the trumpet. While the group does share in a lot of the album’s excellence, this track is Rapp’s highlight. It’s a short, but effective piece.

Rapp bridges contemporary jazz and modern jazz, resulting in something that sounds a bit like funk. Either way, he lives up to his billing as one today’s exciting young trumpeters.

– Woodrow Wilkins, All About Jazz

It’s all pretty amazing, but Rapp’s maturity and authority shine brightest on the ballad numbers (“Thank You,” “Token Tales,”) which he plays not only with conviction, but with a depth, beauty, and stateliness that belie his young years. I also really like his muted intro and outro to “My Place,” a bit of modern romantica. The middle section, with its warm and declamatory heart-on-the-sleeve open trumpet and poignant piano solo, perfectly matches the youthful yearning of its subject matter.

His take on the Strawberry Alarm Clock’s bit of sixties psychedelic novelty, “Incense and Peppermints,” probably the most astounding number on the disc, shows not only a wild and crazy creative streak, but a sly sense of humor. The didgeridoo intro and drone background on “1st Minute, 1st Round,” a hard-driving down under world jazz cut, also make for very attractive listening. And the spritely waltz, “Sweet Serene,” with its casual virtuosity, strongly impresses.

Sophisticated without being slick or saccharine, contemporary but avoiding cliché, Token Tales is a remarkable debut. Mark Rapp is definitely someone to watch.