Dan Blake: The Party Suite (2006)
Dan Blake's orchestral approach to the jazz quartet is reminiscent of both early New Orleans combos and the quartets of Charles Mingus, Gerry Mulligan and Ornette Coleman. His composing suggests the influences of Mingus and Herbie Nichols, whose "Spinning Song is the album's only cover.
A multi-reed player, Blake's most distinctive instrument is soprano sax, which he plays with the big vibrato and robust tone of early practitioners like Sidney Bechet, though in a thoroughly modern way. He's joined on the six parts of the title suite by saxophonist/bass clarinetist Alec Spiegelman, bassist Jorge Roeder and drummer Jorge Perez-Albela. Three other tracks feature a quartet with vibraphonist Alexei Tsiganov, Roeder and drummer Richie Barshay.
A strong bass line, eventually joined by rollicking drums, opens the suite with "The Morning Shuffle, soprano and tenor sax joining in to race through a complicated melodic line and a tandem rubato section for just horns before sax solos with the rhythm section. "The Party is a jaunty march, soprano and tenor interweaving with the rhythm, which includes a clever retard.
"The Sneaky Dance brings a flute and bass clarinet dialogue in over sprung rhythms; "Dance on My Toes is slow and delicate, with tenor sax and bass clarinet joined by bowed bass in a low register. "The Chide Grind mixes soprano and tenor saxophones interacting with a shifting, accelerating rhythm building to a drum solo ending. The suite ends with "Booze, a two-tenor tandem solo over an easy, walking swing rhythm.
"The Party Suite is viscerally entertaining, full of neat arranging touches and fun rhythmic surprises. The other three tracks are more conventional and tune-like, showcases for Blake's soprano sax (two pieces) and tenor sax (one), with vibes offering a pleasing contrast to the usual piano or guitar in the rhythm section.
Track Listing: The Morning Shuffle; The Party; The Sneaky Dance; Dance on My Toes; The Chide Grind; Booze; The Spinning Song; Johnny; Waiting to Change.
Personnel: Dan Blake: reeds; Alec Spiegelman: saxophone, bass clarinet; Alexei Tsiganov: vibes; Jorge Roeder: bass; Richie Barshay or Jorge Perez-Albela: drums.