It's comforting to know that saxophonist Dan Blake hasn't taken Thoreau's inconvenient truth that "most men lead lives of quiet desperation" to heart. Instead, as his Da Fé (translated: of faith) and his apprenticeships with Anthony Braxton prove succinctly, Blake intends to bring the music, and the consciousness of our fragility within it, to the fore, in hopes the listener can shake the malaise too and pick up the call for action.
Blake escorts his pliant, reliant teamDave Liebman alum, drummer Jeff Williams, bassist Dmitry Ishenko, pianist/electronic textualist and Blake's main foil Leo Genovese (tracks 3-4, 6, 8) and, from Allison Miller's Boom Tic Boom, pianist Carmen Staafto discuss and hopefully find some answers to wage against any number of the existential threats that darken our days.
Swept into life by the ominous, chordal rumblings of a solo Staaf, "PrologueA New Normal" leads from its ghostly electronic sweep into "Cry of the East," where Blake takes the reins of a brisk, waltzing quintet conversation that gathers energy and garners rewards in grand fashion. Speaking of grand fashion, "Like Fish in Puddles" joyfully comes at you with all the percussive and spiritual vibe of a McCoy Tyner fueled, mid-60's John Coltrane session sparked by Blake and Genovese while Williams and Ishenko hold the groove together. Like Coltrane, Blake's is a searching sound and, in seeking a common tongue and connection, makes originals such as the stirring "Pain," the up-tempo escape route of "The Grifter" (here Blake duets with himself, sketches around his bandmates with a vibrant tenacity to a feverish conclusion) and the masterful, herky-jerky post-bop "The Cliff," where Blake again urgently duets with Blake until he hands off to a quixotic Staaf while Ishenko and Williams more than prove themselves a forceful and muscle flexing rhythm section.
Coming in at a just under three minutes, "Doctor Armchair" bursts with a fabled, Blue Note fervor and is gone, leaving us the spacey convolutions of the flagship track (hear Williams' many explosions) and the closing epiphany "Epilogue: It Heals Itself." An album of probing conviction and advocacy for the music and the world we listen to that music in.
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.