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Samuel Blais/David Liebman: Cycling

Dan Bilawsky By

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There's no accounting for how great music comes together on record. Sometimes everything is meticulously laid out for months or years in advance, as artists use planning and implementation to their advantage in the creative process; other times, sparks just fly at spur of the moment sessions. Cycling falls into the latter category.

In October of 2012, saxophonist Samuel Blais organized a quartet tour that found him working alongside three of his favorite saxophonists—David Binney, Donny McCaslin, and Dave Liebman. On a day off while in Montreal, Liebman suggested that he and Blais take to the studio and record some music. Blais was up for it, he recruited bassist Morgan Moore and drummer Martin Auguste for the session, each saxophonist selected a few tunes, and Cycling was born.

While spontaneity spawned this album, the music rarely betrays that fact. These musicians are highly attuned to one another and there's no shortage of vitality and verve in the music they produce. This foursome visits mysteriously open settings like "Return To Napanoch," slams, swoops, screeches, skronks, and soars through "Interludio Obscurio," brings buoyancy and spry movements to the swinging "Cycling," and delivers catchy riffs along with hip and angular sounds on "Chli-Bli." This group even manages to turn a somewhat stale song like "Taste Of Honey" into a completely fresh vehicle.

At first glance, the pairing of Blais and Liebman sells the music. But, as the album plays on, the selling points change: the virtues of the music, the variety of the material, and the way all four musicians connect manage to become more central to the story than the tale of two saxophonists. Yes, Blais and Liebman remain front and center, completely living up to the billing, but they're not alone in this journey. All four players set up these grooves, willingly embark on outward bound voyages, and work sly angles into these songs. It's amazing what can happen in a studio when the stars align.

Track Listing: Chli-Bli; Sidonie; Interludio Obscurio; Et Voit Le Jour; Cycling; Return To Napanoch; Taste Of Honey; The Crusher.

Personnel: Samuel Blais: baritone saxophone, alto saxophone, soprano saxophone; David Liebman: soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone; Morgan Moore: double bass; Martin Auguste: drums.

Title: Cycling | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Effendi Records

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