Michael Blake / Kresten Osgood: Control This (2009)
Interstellar Space (Impulse!, 1965), John Coltrane's raucous tenor sax duo album with drummer Rashied Ali, is widely considered the pinnacle achievement of such instrumental pairings. Its blistering intensity continues to haunt similar efforts, yet there are a few intrepid souls who have opted for a more subtle, dynamic approachone which favors conversational interplay over kinetic fury.
New York-based saxophonist Michael Blake and Danish drummer Kresten Osgood are two such explorers. Longstanding collaborators, they served as sidemen to organist Lonnie Smith and toured in Blake's freewheeling Blake Tartare ensemble. Over the years they have developed a deep-seated rapport, lending the congenial free improvisations featured on Control This (their first recording as a duo) an implied sense of structure often lacking in similar efforts.
A lyrical stylist, Blake alternates between tenor and soprano throughout the session and makes his recorded debut on alto. He bolsters his tuneful theme and variation-based excursions with avant-garde flourishes, amplifying mellifluous refrains with vociferous outbursts. Alternating between serene balladry, thorny angularity and multiphonic experimentation, he delves into each aspect with palpable enthusiasm.
Melodically versatile, Osgood mimics bass lines with contagious kick drum and floor tom beats, and provides harmonic accents with scintillating cymbal work. Modulating gracefully through tempos and meters, he fluctuates between old school swing, gritty funk, lilting calypso and roiling tribal vamps (among other styles) with ease, often alternating modes in the same tune.
The duo's empathetic interplay borders on the clairvoyant, but nowhere is it clearer than on their gorgeous interpretation of Ellington's "Creole Love Call." Control This was recorded live in the studio, yet this piece features an overdubbed horn section on the head melody that enriches the tune's soulful opulence. Drawing inspiration from the plangent theme, they deconstruct the underlying beauty of the tune in a visceral central improvisation, showcasing their interpretive abilities while demonstrating the timeless viability of standards.
Vibrant, jovial and filled with affable communication, Control This is a sterling example of the endless possibilities of the duo format.
Track Listing: Salutations; Control This; Creole Love Call; Top Hat; Elephants Are Afraid of Mice; Cotton Mouth; Cheryl.
Personnel: Michael Blake: soprano, alto and tenor saxophones; Kresten Osgood: drums.