More Like Us
Includes full performance of "Something In The Water"
Michael Blake has long been on the cusp of being more-well known among jazz fans, but like his former employer John Lurie, often seems to be looking in. Regularly recording on fellow Jazz Composer Collective projects like with Ben Allison, he shines when given the opportunity without fail. Yet, the larger light of the jazz masses has yet to really focus in on him.
Following the release of a stripped down trio affair on Clean Feed Records, Right Before Your Very Ears with Allison and Jeff Ballard where a particular rawness was revealed, he returns under the moniker of Blake Tartare where Blake has forged a working group of musicians that share his conception creating that elusive mix of the unique yet familiar that falls within the domain of modern jazz. And with their second release, More Like Us, they are sounding more and more cohesive in performance even as guest musicians are added into the mix.
The trademark sound of Michael Blake's saxophone work is still the major draw to the group even with the strong contributions from his Danish counterparts including a number of impressive spots by pianist Soren Kjaergaard, and in a somewhat surprising move the saxophonist opens the album with some very nice work on the clarinet.
The soft clarity of the sound he manages with the instrument fits the mood perfectly here, and throughout More Like Us Blake never seems out of place. Penned by the saxophonist, "Hush also features guest vocals by Maria Laurette Friis that at first sounds plain and unaffected, but with repeated listens becomes so ingrained to the music's structure that she becomes another lead voice rather than a singer lending her voice to a song.
"Hush is an interesting opening track for Michael Blake's group and shows another facet of their sound. Along with Friis' vocals which Blake utilizes on three of the ten tracks, he also incorporates other guest spots such as the instantly recognizable, former fellow Lounge Lizard Steven Bernstein on "Happy Old Yoy that was written by John Lurie. Bernstein's echoed delay hanging over the band fits nicely during the nine and a half minute track.
Following the debut record by Blake Tartare, self titled, it was easy to see that Blake had a band here that pushed each other. And although that record comes across a little more brash and unfocused, the same intensity persists where you can tell that each musician isn't playing licks or running safe route. One of the many highlights of the more focused More Like Us though is the ballad "Maria penned by Coleman Hawkins, also featuring more wordless vocals by Friis.
Overall, Michael Blake and Blake Tartare have crafted another fine album here for Stunt Records that ideally would shed more light on the man or the band. For those who do seek it out or come across it, they are in for a unique sound and experience driven by a unique saxophonist.
After all, not many would include the reggae classic "Johnny Too Bad by The Slickers as their album closer.
Track Listing: Hush; The Meadows; Happy Old Yoy; To Whom This May Concern; Something In The Water; Maria; Africa Used To Be Home; Interlude With Soren; Paddy Pie Face; Johnny Too Bad.
Personnel: Michael Blake: tenor & soprano saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet, ghost flute; Soren Kjaergaard: piano, Wurlitzer, effects; Jonas Westergaard: acoustic bass; Kresten Osgood: drums; Maria Laurette Friis: vocals (1, 4, 6); Steven Bernstein: slide trumpet (3); Jane Scarpantoni: cello (1); Jeppe Kjellberg: guitar (3); Teddy Kumpel: baritone guitar (5), guitar (10).
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