267

Chris Cheek: Blues Cruise

Paul Olson By

Sign in to view read count
Chris Cheek: Blues Cruise Saxophonist Chris Cheek is such a hardworking New York sideman that it's understandable that he hasn't been recording prolifically as a leader. Still, his last CD, Vine, appeared in 1999, so his new quartet set, Blues Cruise, is his first release in six years.The long hiatus certainly seems not to have produced any sense of anxiety or hurry, however. If Blues Cruise stands out from the current crop of recordings from the NYC saxophone crowd, it's due to its lack of urgency.

And in its sense of tradition, it's startlingly uniconoclastic. Cheek plays tenor, alto and soprano saxophones here, joined by Brad Mehldau (piano and Fender Rhodes), Larry Grenadier (bass) and longtime Cheek collaborator Jorge Rossy (drums). The title is perfectly descriptive: the nine tunes (five by the leader) are mostly variations on blues structures, and if they don't all cruise, neither do they gallop or scurry. This is very much a traditional jazz session, and it isn't about grand gestures. It's about creating an atmosphere where the small gestures count.

The question here is whether they do. The album starts with the Ted Grouya/Edmund Anderson standard "Flamingo, which is lightly fuelled by an almost bossa nova rhythm that's deftly up-tempo and simultaneously unedgy to the point of blandness. Mehldau turns in a block chord-peppered piano solo that's awfully good, but the group performance as a whole—as on a good number of the pieces here—fades from the listener's consciousness alarmingly quickly after its final notes pass. The Cheek original "Coo isn't very interesting, either, with a minor-key descending theme that bears a substantial resemblance to "Nuages. Grenadier's bass lassos rather neatly around Mehldau's Fender Rhodes solo here, and Cheek's succeeding solo does shoot some sparks into Rossy's accompaniment, but the song is dull.

"Squirrelling is very good, however. Its loping, bluesy 6/8 time maintains the old-school, after-hours atmosphere of the album, but injects a needed vim that lifts the song up into the realm of the engaging, and then some—the joie de vivre/doldrums meter finally skews towards the former extreme. Granted, this song's more up-tempo than a lot of Blues Cruise, but there's more to it than that—both the leader and Mehldau contribute joyously earthy solos here over Rossy's relaxed cymbal swagger, and while there's no loss here of restraint or taste, there's not too much of those qualities here either.

The title track, a Cheek-composed alto/Rhodes feature with a nicely charged atmosphere, is a winner as well. Rossy's measured 4/4 pulse carries the slightest touch of foreboding, and it's fun to hear Mehldau's light touch on Rhodes, in both his comping around Cheek's fantastic alto break and his own sighing solo.

If Cheek's recording output as a frontman was greater, Blues Cruise wouldn't seem so disappointing. Certainly, its good tracks are very good indeed. If they weren't outnumbered by the dull ones, the album's airy, blowing-session blues would be downright refreshing.


Track Listing: Flamingo; Low Key Lightly; Coo; Squirrelling; Song of India; Falling; Blues Cruise; John Denver; The Sweetheart Tree.

Personnel: Chris Cheek: tenor, alto, soprano saxophones; Jorge Rossy: drums; Brad Mehldau: piano, Fender Rhodes; Larry Grenadier: bass.

Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Fresh Sound New Talent | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


Shop

More Articles

Read Northern Adventures CD/LP/Track Review Northern Adventures
by Jack Bowers
Published: February 28, 2017
Read Collider CD/LP/Track Review Collider
by John Sharpe
Published: February 28, 2017
Read Eos CD/LP/Track Review Eos
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 28, 2017
Read More Than This CD/LP/Track Review More Than This
by Henning Bolte
Published: February 28, 2017
Read Road to Forever CD/LP/Track Review Road to Forever
by Jack Bowers
Published: February 27, 2017
Read Avenida Graham CD/LP/Track Review Avenida Graham
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 27, 2017
Read "Kucheza" CD/LP/Track Review Kucheza
by Sacha O'Grady
Published: January 1, 2017
Read "Storyteller" CD/LP/Track Review Storyteller
by Hrayr Attarian
Published: February 5, 2017
Read "This Is Nate Najar" CD/LP/Track Review This Is Nate Najar
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 26, 2017
Read "Groove Legacy" CD/LP/Track Review Groove Legacy
by Chris M. Slawecki
Published: May 8, 2016
Read "Araminta" CD/LP/Track Review Araminta
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 17, 2017
Read "Evergreen (Canceled World)" CD/LP/Track Review Evergreen (Canceled World)
by Dave Wayne
Published: January 4, 2017

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: Jazz Near You | GET IT  

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!