Michael Blake: Drift (2002)
Blake is an improvising saxophonist who, because of his personal interests and the label he’s on, is often mistakenly relegated to the Worldbeat sections. To be honest, this disc only grabbed me halfway through, but when it did, it grabbed hard, and has sustained repeated listening.
The title cut, “Drift,” is echoed à la old ECM, and has lots of little percussion making the mournful tune very world-weary. Kimbrough, listed as playing only piano, is on an electric model. Scherr’s guitar touches are special. “Mean As A Swan” starts with a martial castanets, and, like every track, has wonderful touches, here the sliding brass. “Toque” has a township beat and is pleasant until the trumpet truly blows, but the piece ends rapidly and the delightfully witty “The Creep,” via piano, creeps in in the tradition of “The Mooche” and such pieces. It has many sections which are well constructed; all are clearly part of the whole- it swings; here is where the disc truly starts. The “Lady Red” slows the momentum as a lovely piano solos until and a swinging horn section sways you, with velvety sax solos. Blake’s notes say it: “Martinis, anyone?”
“Teo Walks” in on shattered pieces of percussion and a jumpy berimbau (actually, it’s one of the sliding horns) until the horns do a thicker JB’s thang, and two minutes later a tape smear segues to the superb “Duty Free Suite,”which opens with location recordings from an airport and a sad piano, a tribute to Jaki Byard, and then appropriately, changes gears and swings as if it were the Mingus ensemble that featured Byard. (Try Byard’s Family Man , recently transferred to CD on Label M.) "Dry Socket" is a New Orleansy blues, and the rhythm of “Afro Blake” is a cross between township music and Isaac Hayes’ Enterprise recordings. Through the rest of the disc, one hears a variety of original but informed American rhythms with excellent use of horns. One could simplify it by saying the man is channelling funk in all its forms, which includes Scherr’s psychedelic guitar solo on “Afro Blake,” which wouldn’t be out of place on a Zappa disc nor on one of the Temptations’ extended psychedelic tracks. The leader notes a connection through the Lounge Lizards to Fela.
This stew is rich and brassy.
Track Listing: 1. Drift; 2. Mean As A Swan; 3. Toque; 4. The Creep; 5. Lady Red; 6. Teo Walks; 7. Duty Free Suite; 8. Dry Socket; 9. Afro Blake; 10. Maria; 11. Residence
Personnel: Michael Blake, saxophones; Peck Allmond, saxophone, peck horn, trumpet; Briggan Krauss, saxophones; Ron Horton, trumpet, flugelhorn; Marcus Rojas, tuba; Steve Bernstein, slide trumpet; Frank Kimbrough, piano; Tony Scherr, electric guitar; Ben Allison, bass; Matt Wilson, drums, Mauro Refosco, percussion.