Although trumpeter Kirk Knuffke is a fresh face to the international jazz scene, he has been remarkable active in the last few years. Besides being a member of Butch Morris’ Orchestra Slang, the Nublu Orchestra, Jeff Davis Band, Ideal Bread, No Truck, and Kenny Wollesen’s Wollesonic, he has played on stage or recorded with, among others, Graham Haynes, Eddie Henderson, Daniel Carter, John Zorn, Tony Malaby, Dave Douglas, Briggan Krauss, Steven Bernstein, and Sonny Simmons. His teachers include such polar opposites as Ornette Coleman and Wynton Marsalis. “Big Wig” is Knuffke’s debut record. This Denver-born turned New Yorker musician admires the sound and the phrasing of Lester Bowie (you may notice his influence) and the compositional work of Steve Lacy (Knuffke plays in a band dedicated to interpret the departed soprano saxophonist’s tunes), but he also loves Thad Jones swinging orchestral ideas. There’s a Chet-Baker-like sweetness in his playing and he has a crazy predilection for Pee Wee Russell and his clarinet. “Open” and “straight-ahead” are terms that simultaneously apply to the Kirk Knuffke Quartet. One doesn’t exclude the other. They simply are two aspects of the same thing. The group can be rigorous, yes, but also “rude and reckless when the music calls for it,” as Kirk writes in the liner notes of this album.