Support All About Jazz

All About Jazz needs your help and we have a deal. Pay $20 and we'll hide those six pesky Google ads that appear on every page, plus this box and the slideout box on the right for a full year! You'll also fund website expansion.


I want to help
207

Arthur Blythe: Focus

Todd S. Jenkins By

Sign in to view read count
Arthur Blythe: Focus After what many considered a dry period in the early 1990s, Arthur Blythe gently began his return to alto prominence through exotic collaborations with cellist David Eyges and mallets player Gust William Tsilis. Focus presents one of his most unusual ensembles since the early '80s tuba/cello/guitar quintet. The sparse, foreign sound of this new quartet takes a moment to adjust to, but after a short distance into “Opus 1” (a Blythe original, not the old Sy Oliver chestnut) we are completely sucked in. Tsilis’s tinkly marimba carries the air of the Brazilian rainforest or African veldt but, within the full context of the album, manages to sound comfortably at home.

Two obscure Monk tunes, actually expansions of prior art, are assayed here. “Children’s Song,” a recasting of “This Old Man,” is taken slowly and decorated by Blythe’s signature wide vibrato. “Stuffy Turkey,” drawing heavily from Coleman Hawkins’ “Stuffy”, gets the Bourbon Street treatment; Stewart’s vigorous puffing sounds perfectly fitting, and Brooks is sufficiently flexible to negotiate all the different turns this multi-hued album takes.

Two duo tracks offer Blythe and friends a chance for more introspective action. “Once Again” is a mysterious duet for Blythe and Tsilis, their lines woven together like a rich textile. As the altoist matches wits with Stewart on “Hip Toe,” they fill in the numerous spaces nicely with spontaneous phrases and thoughtful responses.

Only Ellington’s “In A Sentimental Mood” flounders, and significantly so. Blythe’s intonation is quite unsteady at times, and Tsilis mostly noodles with a seeming lack of direction as if he were unfamiliar with the tune. However, Blythe quickly redeems things on the title piece, a too-short solo of impressive lyricism which brings a satisfying end to a most surprising experience. More evidence that Blythe still has plenty of good, creative notions within his expansive mind.

www.jazzdepot.com


Track Listing: Opus 1; Children

Personnel: Arthur Blythe, alto sax; Gust William Tsilis, concert grand marimba; Bob Stewart, tuba; Cecil Brooks III, drums.

Year Released: 2002 | Record Label: Savant Records | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


Shop

CD/LP/Track Review
Interviews
CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
Lenox Avenue Breakdown / In The Tradition / Illusions / Blythe Spirit
Lenox Avenue...
BGO Records
2016
buy
Focus
Focus
Savant Records
2003
buy
Exhale
Exhale
Savant Records
2003
buy
Focus
Focus
Savant Records
2002
buy
[no cover]
Blythe Byte
Audible Hiss
2001
buy
[no cover]
Today's Blues
Audible Hiss
1998
buy
John Coltrane John Coltrane
saxophone
Eric Dolphy Eric Dolphy
reeds
Ornette Coleman Ornette Coleman
sax, alto
Lee Konitz Lee Konitz
sax, alto
Dave Douglas Dave Douglas
trumpet
Charles Lloyd Charles Lloyd
saxophone
Andrew Hill Andrew Hill
piano
Paul Motian Paul Motian
drums
Jackie McLean Jackie McLean
sax, alto
Archie Shepp Archie Shepp
saxophone

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.