New York-based, Swiss-born trombonist Samuel Blaser has appeared on over 30 recordings as a sideman and former member of numerous European big bands (including the Vienna Art Orchestra). 7th Heaven is his impressive debut as a leader. Accompanied by sympathetic peers, his quartet interprets these elaborate, lyrical compositions with knowing restraint and simmering volatility.
Drawing on his classical education, Blaser blurs the line between the written and improvised with an intricate, multi-layered aesthetic that is as melodically engaging as it is exploratory. Employing ample space and open tonalities, Blaser's angular tunes are ethereal even at their most tumultuous. Dominated by the three-part "Metamorphose Suite," the album unfolds with an atmospheric, neo-classical attention to detail.
A commanding soloist with a harmonious approach to abstraction, Blaser enriches his mellifluous, buttery timbre with multiphonics, smears and myriad extended techniques to paint swirls of expressive chiaroscuro. Together with nimble guitarist Scott DuBois, they craft a rich sonic palette. A rising presence in the Downtown scene, DuBois has a distinct, effusive style that avoids routine conventions. Eschewing electronic EFX, he favors an unaffected, traditional guitar tone to fuel his blistering intervallic runs and percolating salvos.
Bassist Thomas Morgan (Dave Binney, Steve Coleman) and drummer Gerald Cleaver (Charles Gayle, Roscoe Mitchell) navigate turn-on-a-dime shifts in tempo and tone with a far-reaching facility. Morgan alternates lithe figures with sinewy support while Cleaver mixes roiling trap set palpitations with scintillating cymbal work, offering an expansive percussive panorama. From rubato pulses to unusual time signatures, Morgan and Cleaver spin a web of complex rhythmic patterns as they gracefully navigate a maze of quicksilver changes that veer from intricate cadences to pointillist accents.
Blaser's quartet brings a majestic air to the session, bolstering their empathetic communal sensibility with intuitive dexterity and unfettered virtuosity, accentuating and deconstructing forms with carefully considered interpretation. A stellar debut, 7th Heaven reveals Blaser as an artist of great promise.
Personnel: Samuel Blaser: trombone; Scott DuBois: guitar; Thomas Morgan: double bass; Gerald Cleaver: drums.