496

Seamus Blake: Bellwether

By

Sign in to view read count
Seamus Blake: Bellwether This is a great period for tenor players, with some of the best in our midst: Chris Potter, Jimmy Greene, Donny McCaslin, Marcus Strickland, and Seamus Blake, among others. Surfacing in the Mingus Big Band during the nineties, Blake's aggressive edginess was impressive in a group which took no prisoners. The tenor saxophonist more than held his own. Recently, he seems to be refining and elaborating his improvisational style while further developing his compositional skills.

With Bellwether, Blake brings a number of shrewd twists and extensions to the contemporary, post-hard bop genre. This is much the same band as on Blake's highly-regarded outing Way Out Willy (Criss Cross, 2007). Only the Australian bassist Matt Clohesy is new.

Claiming he was attracted to John Scofield's "Dance Me Home" for its "fun to play on" modulations, Blake transforms this opening tune's original funk into straight-out, up-tempo blowing. It may be the most predictable piece on the album. On Blake's original, "A Beleza Que Vem," a relaxed homage to Brazilian music, pianist David Kikoski sets up a lovely lilt using an almost formal triple-metered, dance-hall rhythm. Blake's ballad "The Song That Lives Inside," reveals echoes of Thelonious Monk's classic, "'Round Midnight," and includes a fine acoustic guitar solo from guitarist Lage Lund. The title tune rides an easy, swaying 5/4, while on the up-tempo cooker, "Minor Celebrity," drummer Bill Stewart conjures a constantly-simmering, complex rumble in seven.

The real surprise comes at the end of this release: Debussy's "String Quartet in G." It's a wonder improvising musicians haven't mined the string quartet repertoire before, with its scads of melodies and harmonies which seem tailor-made for the developmental instincts and intricacies of a jazz group. Here Blake tackles the third movement and works some of its chords into a mid-section recurring pattern for solos. With soprano and piano dominating, the piece features Kikoski, who knows this territory well and incorporates those distinctive and irresistible impressionist harmonies.

For some, possibly, the front line unison of tenor and guitar head statements may seem a bit familiar. It is a popular style now, with many groups like those of Kurt Rosenwinkel and Mark Turner, Adam Rogers and Chris Potter, and Joshua Redman and Ben Monder having taken the same approach.

But there are enough subtle differences within these performances and compositions to distinguish this from what at first might appear as another variation on the usual Criss Cross date. The Brazilian piece avoids the typical bossa treatment; the varied time signatures are intriguing and fresh; and the Debussy closer is a gem. While there may be nothing uncharted here, except perhaps for the Debussy, Bellwether becomes more enticing and satisfying with each listen.


Track Listing: Dance Me Home; A Beleza Que Vem; Subterfuge; The Song That Lives Inside; Bellwether; Minor Celebrity; String Quartet in G Minor,Opus 10.

Personnel: Seamus Blake: tenor and soprano saxaphones; Lage Lund: guitar; David Kikoski: piano; Matt Clohesy: bass; Bill Stewart: drums.

Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Criss Cross | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


Shop

More Articles

Read The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door CD/LP/Track Review The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 25, 2017
Read The Angel and the Brute Sing Songs of Rapture CD/LP/Track Review The Angel and the Brute Sing Songs of Rapture
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Coldest Second Yesterday CD/LP/Track Review Coldest Second Yesterday
by John Sharpe
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Chicago II CD/LP/Track Review Chicago II
by Doug Collette
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Follow Your Heart CD/LP/Track Review Follow Your Heart
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Over the Rainbow CD/LP/Track Review Over the Rainbow
by Paul Rauch
Published: February 24, 2017
Read "Euro Swing Vol. 2" CD/LP/Track Review Euro Swing Vol. 2
by Mark Corroto
Published: July 24, 2016
Read "Sea Ahead" CD/LP/Track Review Sea Ahead
by James Nadal
Published: July 28, 2016
Read "Time on My Hands" CD/LP/Track Review Time on My Hands
by Jack Bowers
Published: December 10, 2016
Read "Genesis" CD/LP/Track Review Genesis
by Karl Ackermann
Published: November 4, 2016
Read "Bombogenic" CD/LP/Track Review Bombogenic
by Dave Wayne
Published: May 21, 2016
Read "Freedom Jazz Dance: The Bootleg Series Vol. 5" CD/LP/Track Review Freedom Jazz Dance: The Bootleg Series Vol. 5
by Doug Collette
Published: October 19, 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!