Saxophonist and flutist T.K Blue's tenth album A Warm Embrace is an enchanting and elegant work with richly textured harmonies and captivating melodies. Even though not all of the tracks are strictly speaking ballads there is a sublime sense of poetry that runs throughout the record and is its prevailing and cohesive motif.
The solemn "Requiem for a Loved I" dedicated to several deceased musicians is intensely, yet quietly, lyrical and somber. It opens with a pensive and melancholic dialogue between Blue's yearning, clean saxophone and guitarist Russell Malone's earthy tones. Blue's haunting improvisation builds an aura of nostalgia with Malone's slow simmering strings glow a deep cerulean. Pianist James Weidman adds to that blues drenched ambience with his thick, contemplative chords.
Another memorable original, "Once Loved" features Blue's soaring, flittering flute over Quarttete Indigo Strings' lush and hypnotic sonic tapestry. Blue engages in a subtly dramatic conversation with the Quartette (augmented by bassist Paul Beudry) with hints of classicism that eschews overt theatricality.
Even the up-tempo tunes are deeply melodic. Pianist Randy Weston's swinging "Portrait of Patsy J" maintains a boppish effervescence as Weidman lays down bright yet intricately woven spontaneous phrases. Blue's own embellishments of the theme are quite expressive all the while remaining accessible. Drummer Winard Harper closes the piece gracefully with an energetic and inventive solo.
The undulating "Goodbye Is Not 4-Ever" opens with Blue's flute's circular dance. Guitarist Ron Jackson brings a touch of intrigue with his delightfully complex and intelligent soliloquy. Blue's lilting, upbeat extemporization is refreshingly clever and elaborate without being abstruse. Bassist Essiet Essiet's soulful reverberations usher in the concluding return to the head.
One of the pleasant surprises is the guest appearance of vocalist Alana Adderley. The grandniece of saxophone giant Julian "Canonball" Adderley the charming singer brings an ebullient Latin flavor to the standard with the help of percussionist Ronaldo Guererro. Her evocative articulation and agile voice glide smoothly over the rhythm section's rollicking beats and Weidman's cascading notes.
A Warm Embrace is a sophisticated and passionate disc that is exquisitely beautiful without being overdone. Although it does not break new ground, there is a vibrant sincerity and a serene wisdom that imbue the music in its entirety and make it an alluring and attractive slice of mainstream jazz.
A Warm Embrace; Tides Of Romance; Eu Sei Que Vou Te Amar; Never Felt This Way
(For Antoine And Monique); Requiem For A Loved 1 (For Benny, Jayne, Ted, Earl,
Mulgrew, Shirley, Hotep, Zim, And Sathima); The Essence Of U; Once Loved; Portrait
Of Patsy J; Dance Of Passion; A Quiet Place; Goodbye Is Not 4-Ever; When Sunny
Gets Blue; Dance Of Love Never-Ending.
T.K. Blue: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, flute, alto flute; James Weidman: piano;
Essiet Essiet: acoustic bass, electric bass; Winard Harper: drums; Ron Jackson: guitar;
Russell Malone: guitar (2, 5); Roland Guerrero: percussion; Alana Adderley: vocals (12);
Paul Beaudry: acoustic bass (7); The Quartette Indigo Strings: Akua Dixon: cello (7), Ina
Paris: viola (7); Chala Yancy: violin (7); Patrisa Tomassini: violin (7).
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