Michael Blake: Elevated (2002)
Michael Blake opts for a simple quartet aesthetic on this aptly named release. The lineup is a Jazz Composers Collective who’s who: Ben Allison on bass, Frank Kimbrough on piano, Mike Mazor on drums. Some of the tunes will be familiar to those who’ve heard Blake at the Collective’s New York concert series over the last couple of years.
There’s an Eastern tinge to some tracks — particularly "In the Arms of Ali," "Surfing Sahara," and "Addis Ababa." Kimbrough plays a particularly strong solo on Abdullah Ibrahim’s "Calypso Minor" (the only non-Blake tune), and meshes with Blake’s soprano tightly on the bright, free-bop-ish "Merle the Pearl." Both "Elevated" and "Anthem for No Country" begin with major-key rubato passages and evolve into loose grooves; the former recalls John Coltrane’s "Dear Lord" to some extent. "Lucky Charms," which Blake wrote in honor of saxophonist Lucky Thompson, is a dark-hued ballad, performed in classic jazz style. The disc ends with Blake doing some two-horn riffing on "New Blues, Old News," based on a laid-back three-bar vamp. (He also does the double-horn bit on parts of "Calypso Minor.")
A melodic and relatively sober statement, Elevated privileges the lyrical side of Blake, one of the Collective’s rougher, more avant-leaning constituents.
Track Listing: 1. In the Arms of Ali 2. Surfing Sahara 3. Elevated 4. Addis Ababa 5. Merle the Pearl 6. Calypso Minor 7. Lucky Charms 8. Anthem for No Country 9. New Blues, Old News
Personnel: Michael Blake, tenor and soprano saxophones; Frank Kimbrough, piano; Ben Allison, bass; Mike Mazor, drums