Saxophonist-composer Dan Blake's Da Fé ("of faith"), a meditation on our world in crisis, may have taken, as a starting point, the lyrics to Lou Reed's "Busload Of Faith" from the über-cynical New York (Sire, 1989) recording, "You can depend on cruelty / crudity of thought and sound / You can depend on the worst always happening / you need a busload of faith to get by." What with global warming, income disparity, hunger, and homelessness, the gentle folk of our world are indeed suffering.
While Da Fé evokes the catastrophes we are experiencing, its execution is more akin to A Love Supreme (Impulse!, 1965) than Dante's Inferno. Blake, who has been heard in groups led by Anthony Braxton, Esperanza Spalding, and Julian Lage, assembled a quartet that included Carmen Staaf on keyboards, bassist Dmitry Ishenko and drummer Jeff Williams. His quartet recorded these nine compositions, then Blake augmented and amplified the tracks by overdubbing different saxophones and turning Leo Genovese loose to rethink several compositions with his piano, organ, electric piano, and synthesizers.
Opening simply enough with Staaf's cascading keyboard, "PrologueA New Normal" shifts from phantasmagorical images to foreboding ones with the infusion of disquieting electronic buzz and murmur. With listeners' antennae raised, Blake begins his sermon. "Cry Of The East" finds his soprano saxophone accompanied by the bounce of Williams' drumming before he splits the track through his layered multi-tracked horns. While this track and "Like Fish In Puddles" bring to mind Coltrane's classic quartet, Blake's soprano leans more toward that of Wayne Shorter, and the latter piece is flavored by some squiggly electronics. That said, this is not a fusion recording. Blake's use of multi-tracking adds to the urgency of his message. "The Cliff" mashes his different saxophones against the demanding swing of his sidemen to create a Thelonious Monk-like composition which sounds as if it is performed by Anthony Braxton. The spacey electronics of the title track merge middle-period Wayne Shorter/Weather Report into his Blue Note sessions. Blake's meditation on suffering ends with "Epilogue: It Heals Itself" which wraps multiple saxophones around and around the heartwarming composition. In other words, keep hope alive. Amen.
Prologue—A New Normal; Cry Of The East; Like Fish In Puddles; Pain; The Grifter; The Cliff; Doctor
Armchair; Da Fé; Epilogue: It Heals Itself.