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CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Michael Blake: In the Grand Scheme of Things

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The beginning of an unusual release, “Road to Lusaka" is the first track from Canadian-born, New York-based saxophonist Michael Blake's In the Grand Scheme of Things. While maybe not as widely known in some circles, Blake is a masterful practitioner of the art form who is at ease working in or outside of the mainstream with a discography that includes a number of recordings and credits with the Lounge Lizards, the Jazz Composers Collective and others. Sumptuous noises encompass the cinematic opening--shadowy trumpet wails and subtle nuances of exotic percussion mingled with gentle cymbal crashes--and then suddenly, ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Michael Blake / Kresten Osgood: Control This

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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 approach--one 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 ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Michael Blake Sextet: Amor de Cosmos

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With each release, saxophonist Michael Blake pushes himself in a different direction through composition, instrumentation and/or stylistic approach. On Amor de Cosmos, the native Canadian convened an all-Canuck sextet to perform compositions inspired by family memories and the local history of British Columbia, where he spent time as a child. In a departure for Blake, the group includes younger musicians with whom he had little prior experience: Brad Turner (trumpet), Sal Ferreras (marimba and percussion), Chris Gestrin (keyboards and electronics), Andre Lachance (bass) and Dylan van der Schyff (drums). The CD opens with the appropriately-titled “Ghostlines," an ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Michael Blake Sextet: Amor de Cosmos

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Nothing could be better than a homecoming, and saxophonist Michael Blake proves it on the musical odyssey of Amor de Cosmos. In 2005, Blake returned to Vancouver, where he played two shows. Out of that came this sextet of prime Canadian musicians, who realize Blake's music and vision most profoundly.

Blake's writing is imaginative. He is equally facile with an odd time signature or a mainstream tune. But there is no stasis; evolvement is constant, and comes in Blake's conceptualization of time, dimension and harmony, as he finds fertile zones of his own imagining. These facets become all the more ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Michael Blake Sextet: Amor De Cosmos

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A former member of the Lounge Lizards and co-founder of Slow Poke, saxophonist Michael Blake's familiarity with the esoteric is well documented. A restless searcher, Blake's varied discography reaches beyond jazz to include explorations into the traditional folk music of Vietnam and North Africa. The New York-based saxophonist recently delved into his Canadian roots after studying eccentric 19th century Canadian newspaperman / politician William Alexander Smith, who renamed himself Amor De Cosmos.

Amor De Cosmos is Blake's first recording featuring an all-Canadian ensemble. Blake and trumpeter Brad Turner were part of drummer Dylan van der Schyff's recent quintet ...

LIVE REVIEWS

Michael Blake's Hellbent, Earshot Jazz event, Tula's, Seattle, Washington

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Michael Blake's Hellbent Earshot Jazz event, Tula's Seattle, Washington Saturday, February 24, 2007

Michael Blake last played in Seattle during the 2002 Earshot Jazz Festival with The Herbie Nichols Project, a group spawned by The Jazz Composers Collective. This reviewer covered the Nichols show for Coda magazine (Issue 309, May/June 2003). Let's hope that the wait between performances won't be quite so long next time.

Originally from Montreal, Quebec, Canada--he was born there on May 19, 1964--Blake has been a vital contributor to the new music scene in the New York City ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Michael Blakes Blake Tartare: More Like Us

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More Like Us is the second release from saxophonist Michael Blake's Blake Tartare, with three Danish wunderkinds: keyboardist Soren Kjaergaard, bassist Jonas Westergaard and drummer Kresten Osgood. As the title suggests, the group has developed cohesion, easily maneuvering the circuitous compositions on the disc. The subtle opening of “The Meadows shifts after Blake's pronounced fluttering theme; the rhythm section bolsters him through a freer blowing section until Kjaergaard reels it in--effortlessly gliding through the changes. Similarly, on “Something in the Water, the urgency of Westergaard and Osgood's groove under Blake's bouncy soprano line lithely transitions to a ...

PODCAST

Michael Blake's Blake Tartare: More Like Us

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Blake Tartare More Like Us Stunt Records 2006

Listen 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 ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Michael Blake Trio: Right Before Your Very Ears

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The opening tune and the manic, anguished cover aside, there's nothing to fear on Michael Blake's Right Before Your Very Ears. The album's contents are delightful, creative adventures in jazz, with saxophonist Blake, bassist Ben Allison and drummer Jeff Ballard conjuring the strength and imagination of a much larger outfit.

Most of Right Before Your Very Ears likes to groove, making the voluminous and jagged “Run for Cover," the previously mentioned opening number, a harsh introduction. The next tune, the playful “Funhouse," is a better approximation of the magic these three players can produce. It is on “Flip," though, where ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Michael Blake: Right Before Your Very Ears

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The shrill opening blast of tenor saxophone, like a wailing-woman mourner, announces that Right Before Your Very Ears is a departure for saxophonist Michael Blake. Visceral and immediate, the emphasis is on the playing, especially Blake's, in the stripped-down sax plus rhythm setting.

This is the first document of Blake's working trio with bassist Ben Allison and drummer Jeff Ballard, players with a long and intertwined history. Their familiarity brings focus to the loose arrangements and copious improvisations that Blake had in mind. Recorded after touring, the performances are confident and spontaneity was fostered in the studio by cutting mostly ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Michael Blake: Right Before Your Very Ears

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Opening with an overblown tenor sound that nearly causes your stereo system to clip, Right Before Your Very Ears marks a departure for Michael Blake, especially from his earlier output. Recorded in Brooklyn following a European tour which culminated at Portugal's Coimbra Jazz Festival, the album is comprised entirely of first takes (save for “Fly With The Wind ) intended to force everyone into the moment and inspire some of the magic often created in the sax trio format. The results are decidedly rawer and carry an insurgent message of established creative musicians pushing themselves.Fellow Jazz Composers Collective ...

MULTIPLE REVIEWS

James Finn: Plaza De Toros & Michael Blake: Right Before Your Very Ears

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From Sonny Rollins' stint at the Village Vanguard (famously captured on three Blue Note records) to “Chasin' the Trane, the venerable format of tenor saxophone, bass and drums has produced a staggering amount of innovative and fiery recording situations (Ayler, Sam Rivers, Peter Brötzmann, the list goes on).

With all the landmark trappings that the “power trio" has, it is no wonder that many reedmen choose to make their unfettered mark sans piano, or another front-line instrument for that matter. The seamless, cooperative nature of the trio is used to great advantage on recent recordings of tenormen James Finn and ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Michael Blake: Blake Tartare

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Why Michael Blake has had such a tough go of finding ways to get his music out to the public is an interesting issue, and unfortunately not such an uncommon one. Coming out of John Lurie's Lounge Lizards and consistently involved in the Jazz Composers Collective (along with Ben Allison, Frank Kimbrough, Ted Nash, et al.), Blake's distinctive vision and voice on soprano and tenor should have long ago sealed a consistent stream of music from him. His last recording under his own name, Elevated, made numerous top ten lists, just as his other recordings have garnered critical acclaim. A ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Michael Blake: Blake Tartare

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Saxophonist/composer Michael Blake has led an array of unique projects. His latest CD, Blake Tartare, finds him fronting a quartet with young Danish improvisers Soren Kjaergaard on Fender Rhodes and piano, Jonas Westergaard on bass, and Kresten Osgood on drums. The small group pushes Blake’s horn to the forefront, while the sparse arrangements have a fluidity that is loose without being sloppy.

The short and quiet “Flipper” opens the set, its spacious melody and gentle rhythm section accompaniment foreshadowing what follows. A somber repetitive keyboard riff sets up “Lemmy Caution,” which features Blake’s emotive playing over a medium tempo—the kind ...



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