Randy Weston’s secret is revealed on this live date from New York’s Knitting Factory. But anyone who has seen the tall pianist knows his rhythm secret is Alex Blake. The Panamanian-born, New York-raised bassist started out with Mongo Santamaria and toured with Sun Ra and Dizzy Gillespie. For the past decade he has been touring and recording with Randy Weston, one of the best live acts in jazz today.
This recording is Blake’s first domestic release as a leader. But leading is not a central element of this date. His sidemen are featured prominently, as the enthusiastic audience encourages the revelry. The disc opens with a Victor Jones’ drum solo and some slick piano work by John Hicks (another secret superstar of jazz). The groove is prominent throughout, as Blake plays to the crowd. His solo take on the Beatles “With A Little Help From My Friends” is a cross between Stanley Clarke and Jaco Pastorious, except he accomplishes the bass thunder and feathery sound on his acoustic setup. Percussionist Neil Clark leads us through “The Chief” with a solo opening then solos by Hick, Blake and Pharoah Sanders. If I have one complaint, it is that Sanders’ soloing is just too short. He barely has time to open up with his patented wail when he steps away from the microphone. After all this is Blake’s date. Note to wish list: record this band again, make it a two-CD (maybe three) affair and stretch out the solos.