An Australian based in London since '00, Blake Wilner is currently touring the UK in support of this, his latest and third album. And if you like either post-Wes Montgomery straight-ahead jazz or fx-spiced funk and rock groovesor boththen you should check him out, for he cuts it convincingly and infectiously in both those worlds.
The straight-ahead tracks, which make up about half of the album, are swinging and understated, and Wilner is particularly enjoyable in the difficult, exposed upper register of the guitar, in a style employing fluent single note runs and a confident use of space and silence.
But it is the other, more sonically experimental tracks which are the most arresting. "Redemption Song" (one of only two covers on the set), "The Reprieve" (nice traces of King Crimson), and "Scip" (dedicated to John Scofield) rock out with restrained ferocity and imaginative use of fx, and Wilner paints atmospheric and original sound pictures. Tom Waits's "Take Me Home" closes the album: it's 3 am and Waits is a little wasted, as you should be, and Wilner evokes the vibe precisely and prettily.
Allen, Hayhurst and Smedegaard give good, solid accompanimentand Allen is given a generous amount of solo time, some of which he uses memorably ("The Reprieve" especially) and some of which he doesn't (he's in front for over five of the seven minutes of "Redemption Song" and it's hard to remember much about it afterwards).
But it's Wilner who makes the big impression. It would be good to hear him with more fully developed arrangements around him and a bigger budget behind him: The Reprieve was recorded in just one day and is essentially an efficient but basic archive record of what went down in real time during those short few hours. Wilner doesn't need massive injections of post-prod enhancement, but he does deserve a bigger canvas on which to create. Meanwhile, he's a name to watch and listen out for.
Personnel: Blake Wilner - guitar; Simon Allen - saxophone; Oli Hayhurst - bass; Jacob Smedegaard - drums.