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Seamus Blake: Bellwether

Woodrow Wilkins By

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SSome albums are named for a time, a place, an experience, or even a person. Others have a concept. Saxophonist Seamus Blake takes on concept with Bellwether, a term for leader or trendsetter.

Born in England and raised in Vancouver, Canada, Blake has gained recognition by Down Beat and JazzTimes magazines, and finished first in the 2002 Thelonious Monk Jazz Competition. His associations include Mark Turner, Kurt Rosenwinkel, FLY and Victor Lewis. For Bellwether, Blake is accompanied by guitarist Lage Lund, pianist David Kikoski, bassist Matt Clohesy and drummer Bill Stewart.

"A Beleza Que Vem," one of five Blake compositions, is an easygoing piece that features the leader on soprano saxophone, playing the melody in duet with Lund. Bass and drums are subtle, rim shots and strategically placed splash cymbals subtly accenting Kikoski's solo. Blake stretches out plenty on his solo, the music building in intensity, at one pointy, as if to signal the end, but he plays on.

"Subterfuge," another original, features Blake on tenor. Guitar and sax blend on the lead of a song in 4/4 time but which, because of some creative note placement, often sounds like another time signature. Lund's solo subtly references Pat Metheny, while Stewart gives the entire kit a workout during his solo.

Some of Bellwether's selections are symphonic in mood, but whether symphonic or hard charging, the music is always cohesive and expressive. Each musician shines as an individual, but there's never a moment when the group concept is lost.

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 saxophones; Lage Lund: guitar; David Kikoski: piano; Matt Clohesy: bass; Bill Stewart: drums.

Title: Bellwether | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Criss Cross

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