At the risk of being guilty of national stereotyping, I have to say that London-based Australian expat Blake Wilner's guitar playing reminds me of Russell Crowe. Wilner may or may not enjoy pitching mobile phones at hotel receptionists, or rounding off an evening's drinking with an invigorating bar room brawl, but he brings the same lurching Wild West unpredictability to his music as his thespian compatriot does to a night on the town.
Bring it on. Interloper punches the lights out and announces Wilner's certain arrival in the major league. All the elements that have distinguished his previous three albumsslow-drag rock and funk motor rhythms, interactive tenor sax/guitar improvisations, fractured bass/drum ostinatos, high contrast dynamics, shifting tempos, an embrace of pause and silence, and lyrical post bop toplinesare again present, but the mixture is more fully and effectively realised than before. It's dangerous, exciting, individual and delightful.
And this time round, Wilner's band members all play like motherfuckers, too. The biggest and best news is the return of saxophonist Brandon Allen, a fellow Australian expat and collaborator of Wilner's since the early days of the quartet in Perth (both musicians left for London around the same time, but life temporarily took them in different directions). Allen's lusty playingwhich mixes free, funk, jam band, Stax and straight-ahead just like Wilner's, and is also as gorgeously and messily lyricalis a major ingredient in the album's success.
Bassist Oli Hayhurst, a founding member of Gilad Atzmon's Orient House ensemble, returns from 2004's The Reprieve, but teamed this time with Chris Hutchings, a drummer of comparable wit and propulsive power, who's been playing with Wilner on and off since 2001. It's a bad-ass band with brains.
Wilner's writing hits a new peak too. Faux fumbling on the opening "Drunken Romance," meditative on the closing "The Prayer," and tempestuous and passionate in between"Interloper," "Stormy Monday," "In The City" and "Dangerous Mind" do just what they promise on the can. Forward motion, melodic invention, back-line soul, and big architecture are constant.
The Blake Wilner Quartet tours Australia in June/July and the UK in November/December.
Visit Blake Wilner on the web.
Personnel: Blake Wilner: guitar; Brandon Allen: saxophone; Oli Hayhurst: bass; Chris Hutchings: drums.