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Michael Blake: Fulfillment

Glenn Astarita By

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Saxophonist Michael Blake's previous concept album Kingdom of Champra (Intuition, 1997) is based on his experiences living with his family in Vietnam. On Fulfillment, the artist centers his focus on India, namely an incident that occurred when a Japanese freighter, transporting hundreds of East Indian immigrants was denied entry into the port of Vancouver, Canada in 1914. Another source of interest is that Blake's great grand uncle H.H. Stevens was instrumental in engaging the Canadian Parliament to take action.

Blake's manifold tactics are structured on contrasting modal processes and clever arrangements amid heartwarming, melodic choruses; straight-four jazz rock cadenzas, several reengineering exercises and shades of East India. Each piece encompasses a standalone storyline. And this positive attribute offers a sense of intrigue as Blake diversifies these arrangements with great depth, marked by his deeply personalized vision and so forth. For example, "Departures" poses a combination of glee and solace, commencing with Chris Gestin's brisk piano solo, and a linear horns and cello arrangement, amped by perky accents. The musicians bounce between free-jazz and modern mainstream, gelled with catchy phrasings and spunky soloing jaunts.

"Battle at Baj Baj," features a somber current, launched by drummer Dylan van der Schyff's rolling mallets and cymbals extrapolations, while Blake's dusky tonal range and commanding presence initiates the expansive movements with a touch of angst towards closeout. Other works are designed with climactic passages and guitarist Ron Samworth's distortion- streaked solos, but several regions of sound are softened with gentle overtones. Indeed, Blake's creative and imaginative sparks are in full force and he's undoubtedly at the top of his game here.

Track Listing: Sea Shanty; Perimeters; The Ballad of Gurdit Singh; Arrivals; Departures; Battle at Baj Baj; Exaltation; The Soldier and the Saint.

Personnel: Michael Blake: tenor & soprano saxophone, compositions; J.P. Carter, trumpet, electronics; Peggy Lee, cello; Chris Gestrin, piano, MicroMoog; Ron Samworth: electric guitar, banjo; André Lachance: bass; Dylan van der Schyff: drums, percussion. Special guests -Aram Bajakian: acoustic & electric guitar (1, 6, 7); Emma Postl, voice (1, 3); Neelamjit Dhillon, tabla (7).

Title: Fulfillment | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Songlines Recordings

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