Blue Cranes is the name of a Portland, Oregon-based jazz trio whose self-titled CD is an EP containing live performances. They describe their music as fusing "the repetitive elements of modern loop-based music with traditional and avant-garde jazz styles in an acoustic setting."
The music on Blue Cranes inevitably centers around the intriguing alto saxophonist Reed Wallsmith. He immediately grabs the listener through the sheer size of his sound. His tone is big, expressive, and marked by a warm vibrato. He takes chances when he plays, using a variety of tonal shadings and some vocalized effects. However, Wallsmith sometimes stumbles over his double-timing, which blunts the force of his ideas. On the other hand, he swings forcefully for the most part.
The greatest strength of Blue Cranes is their unity as a band. Wallsmith, bassist Keith Brush, and drummer Ji Tanzer anticipate each other's moves with considerable empathy, while Brush and Tanzer adroitly punctuate Wallsmith's lines. Their propulsive swing is especially evident on "Running Out" and ".30-06 Circus." Guitarist Johannes Haage is a definite asset when he appears. His comping adds depth to the sound, particularly on the rubato ballad "A Nicaragua."
Blue Cranes play entirely original material, with some tasty melodies and an attractive variety of rhythmic approaches. Harmonically, however, there seem to be similarities in each tune, resulting in a sameness in mood to this CD. Overall, however, this is a fine band, and Blue Cranes is a solid album.
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