162

Michael Blake Sextet: Amor De Cosmos

Troy Collins By

Sign in to view read count
Michael Blake Sextet: Amor De Cosmos 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 album The Definition of a Toy (Songlines, 2005). Bassist Andre Lachance is a member of pianist Chris Gestrin's trio with van der Schyff, while Sal Ferreras is an upcoming multifaceted percussionist.

Surprisingly under-sung, Blake's memorable, idiosyncratic writing deftly incorporates contrapuntal melodies and odd time signatures without sacrificing accessibility. Even the 11/8 meter of "The Wash Away," inspired by the late kora master Keba Cissoko, effortlessly supports an airy Africanized theme.

Accenting complex counterpoint with a twinge of humor, Blake's jocular writing makes the knotty twists and turns of "Temporary Constellation," "So Long Seymour" and "Paddy Pie Face" sound perfectly natural. Inspired by Blake's quirky themes, van der Schyff and Lachance's rousing dialogue on the multi-sectional "Paddy Pie Face" is exhilarating. Van der Schyff's thunderous solo on "Temporary Constellation" is an impressive balance between percussive fury and melodic logic.

The cinematic epic "So Long Seymour" incrementally gains steam fueled by a stalwart bass and marimba vamp, eventually hitting a blazing bop stride. Supported by the rhythm section's fluid accompaniment, Blake and Turner each take expressive solos before the tune transforms into a bustling duet between Gestrin and Ferreras. Gestrin strums strings inside his piano while dropping brisk, linear arpeggios outside as Ferreras shadows his every move on marimba. Their conversation gradually deconstructs before the ensemble regroups to reintroduce the theme.

As a soloist, Blake blends a husky, breathy tone with alternate fingerings, yielding a subtle, expressively rich palette. Brad Turner's buttery tone and melodic assuredness make a great front-line foil. His soaring plea on "The Wash Away" is as lofty as his tender meditation on "Infirmary" is earthbound. Sal Ferreras contributes dazzling marimba lines that add a sparkling levity to the session.

Chris Gestrin's pianism ranges from poetic impressionism, as on the gentle ballad, "Infirmary," to the experimental interior manipulations and jagged angles of the mercurial "Temporary Constellation." On the title track he evokes the fulminating Milesian fury of the Dark Prince's early fusion experiments on electric piano, laced with an acerbic wit.

Gestrin and Blake's two free improvisations, "Ghostlines" and "The Hunt" demonstrate their outré interests with freewheeling interplay that incorporates ghostly multiphonics, spectral electronic washes and spare pointillism.

A diverse and appealing record, Amor De Cosmos is an elegant demonstration of Blake's gifts as a writer and improviser, supported by a tight, intuitive ensemble.


Track Listing: Ghostlines; Temporary Constellation; Amor De Cosmos; So Long Seymour; The Wash Away; Infirmary; The Hunt; Paddy Pie Face.

Personnel: Blake: tenor and soprano saxophone; Brad Turner: trumpet; Sal Ferreras: marimba and percussion; Chris Gestrin: acoustic and electric piano, electronics; Andre Lachance: acoustic bass; Dylan van der Schyff: drums.

Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: Songlines Recordings | Style: Modern Jazz


Shop

More Articles

Read Backlog CD/LP/Track Review Backlog
by Mark F. Turner
Published: February 24, 2017
Read Over the Rainbow CD/LP/Track Review Over the Rainbow
by Paul Rauch
Published: February 24, 2017
Read Before The Silence CD/LP/Track Review Before The Silence
by John Sharpe
Published: February 24, 2017
Read Process And Reality CD/LP/Track Review Process And Reality
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 24, 2017
Read Masters Legacy Series, Volume 1 CD/LP/Track Review Masters Legacy Series, Volume 1
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 24, 2017
Read The Picasso Zone CD/LP/Track Review The Picasso Zone
by Franz A. Matzner
Published: February 23, 2017
Read "Naija Rhythm Affair, NYC" CD/LP/Track Review Naija Rhythm Affair, NYC
by James Nadal
Published: July 12, 2016
Read "No Parking Any Time" CD/LP/Track Review No Parking Any Time
by Matthew Aquiline
Published: February 12, 2017
Read "The Evolution Suite" CD/LP/Track Review The Evolution Suite
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: October 4, 2016
Read "Live At Edgefest" CD/LP/Track Review Live At Edgefest
by John Sharpe
Published: April 28, 2016
Read "Reciprocity" CD/LP/Track Review Reciprocity
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: August 15, 2016
Read "Sinking Houseboat Confusion" CD/LP/Track Review Sinking Houseboat Confusion
by Mark Sullivan
Published: June 14, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!