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The Jasper Blom Quartet: Dexterity

John Kelman By

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With the impossible volume of music released each and every week, there's always that sinking feeling that something's being missed. When saxophonist Jasper Blom and his quartet delivered their showcase performance at Dutch Jazz & World Meeting 2010, it became immediately clear that this was a contemporary group well worth investigating. Blom is a part of the second generation of Dutch musicians, following the emergence of now iconic countrymen like drummer Han Bennink and pianist Misha Mengelberg in the 1960s, that also includes pianist Michiel Borstlap, trumpeter Eric Vloeimans, guitarist Anton Goudsmit, and saxophonist Benjamin Herman. Jesse van Ruller is also part of this select circle that is, in turn, is influencing younger musicians like guitarist Marzio Scholten and pianist Harmen Fraanje; the guitarist is also a member of Blom's quartet and Dexterity , the thoroughly compelling follow-up to an equally impressive debut, Statue of Liberty (Mainland, 2008).

Rounded out by two other active players on the Dutch scene and beyond—bassist Frans van der Hoeven and drummer Martjn Vink (also a member of The Ploctones, another impressive DJ&WM showcase group)—Blom's quartet is another modern group bringing technology into the mix, but more as an adjunct that an equal partner. Blom's use effects on his three horns is rather unusual, sometimes using a pitch shifter, other times odd alterations that expand his timbres into the otherworldly, as he does on "White Stripes," Dexterity's longest track at eight minutes, which begins with a spare, two-chord bass vamp with barely a pulse. Vink's light-touched but busy playing and van Ruller's gritty-toned, delayed exchanges between harmonics and slowly evolving voicings, build beneath Blom's effected horns, to a thundering mid-song climax, with van Ruller's jagged chords and Blom's serpentine, overdubbed theme leading to a solo from van Ruller that's refreshing in its confident navigation and avoidance of common stylistic references points; instead, van Ruller is a player with a distinct sound and approach, well-deserving of greater recognition beyond his neck of the woods.

As is true with Blom, whose closing solo on "White Stripes" sears without excess—a common denominator, throughout this set of largely original compositions. The sole exception is his balladic adaptation of 13th French composer Solage's lyrical "En L'Amoureux Vergier," a soft feature where van Ruller's tart tone and gentle weaving through its pastoral changes is equally matched by Blom's thoughtfully thematic solo.

Blom's music bears some superficial reference to drummer Brian Blade's Fellowship Band and saxophonist David Binney's recent projects; there's even a hint of expansive Midwestern vistas on "Waltz for Magnus" where, driven by van der Hoeven and VInk, both van Ruller and Blom solo at length, but never without purpose. There's a lot to love about Dexterity, a thoroughly modern recording that refuses to be insulated and, instead, spreads out with lyrical fire when required, but proves equally capable of gentler climes, and even a hint of swing. An exhilarating discovery, and one that demands far greater attention in future.

Track Listing: Knor; Homecoming; White Stripes; Waltz for Magnus; Tasmania; En L'Amoureux Vergier; Running Gag; The Roundtrip; Candy.

Personnel: Jasper Blom: tenor and soprano saxophones, bass clarinet, effects; Jesse van Ruller: guitars; Frans van der Hoeven: bass; Martijn Vink: drums.

Title: Dexterity | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Mainland Records

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