Seamus Blake and Chris Cheek: Reeds Ramble (2014)
How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Saxophonists Seamus Blake and Chris Cheek are both into their third decades as professional musicians. Their working relationship goes back to the early-90s when Cheek was a member of Blake's "alternative grunge jazz" band The Bloomdaddies. On Reeds Ramble (the title is borrowed from a tune written by guitarist Jerry Reed) the two men lead a quintet on a selection of tunes ranging from Elmo Hope's upbeat "De Dah" to Brian Wilson's oddly unsettling "'Til I Die," with one original each from the saxophonists.
Blake and Cheek have brought together a tremendous rhythm section, which includes The Bad Plus' pianist Ethan Iverson, James Farm bassist Matt Penman and drummer Jochen Rueckert. The three players are consistently excellentalthough their playing on Blake's "All About Me" (based on the "All Of Me" changes) and Chico Buarque's "Na Carreira" deserves special mention, especially Iverson's cascading runs on the final section of Blake's tune.
Special mention should also go to "Lady In Langour." Atmospherically, it sounds like a '40s classic ballad yet it's a contemporary tune written by Canadian composer Vickie Yang, who Blake has worked with on a variety of projects. Instrumentally it features fine performances from each musician and some of the album's most intriguing harmonieswith Iverson in the band, there's some stiff competition for that particular accolade.
The real joy of Reeds Ramble is in hearing the tenor saxophones togetherin unison, trading phrases, firing off each other's ideas. On "Na Carreira" the twin tenors attack the tune from the off, chasing each other with a real sense of fun, driven by Rueckert's brushed drums. On "I Surrender Dear" they're laid back, almost lazy in places. The feeling is delightfully relaxed. "All About Me" features the pair in rip-roaring bebop mode, while the slinky groove of Eddie Harris' 7/4 "1974 Blues" gives the pair a chance to stretch out on their solos.
Track Listing: Na Carreira; 1974 Blues; Holodeck Waltz; Blue Moose; De Dah; 'Til I Die; I Surrender Dear; All About Me; Lady In Languor.
Personnel: Seamus Blake: tenor saxophone; Chris Cheek: soprano saxophone (3), tenor saxophone; Ethan Iverson: piano; Matt Penman: bass; Jochen Rueckert: drums.
Record Label: Criss Cross