Despite his relative anonymity, pianist John Blum has been a New York free jazz fixture for more than a decade. In the Shade of the Sun teams him with ubiquitous bassist William Parker and percussion innovator Sunny Murray. Blum and Murray work well together, having established their musical relationship in Murray's trio and on Perles Noires Volume 2 (Eremite, 2005). Parker can create his own place in any mix and does so here as well.
Blum's keyboard technique is something of a free jazz hybrid of McCoy Tyner and Cecil Taylor, decidedly percussive but with relentlessly fast right-hand linear structure. When combined with Murray's complex kit work, it is a wonder that Parker manages to make a statement of his own. The nearly fifteen minute opener is part 1 of the title track, and it finds Blum using the entire keyboard and multiple techniques to create a spectrum of sound that would easily hold up as a solo piece. Murray assimilates without sacrificing a display of his much overlooked skills and Parker subtly ties the dialog together.
The collection's closing is the title track's second part, and is one of those rare spots where things slow down enough to breathe. Parker starts out with the bow and Blum approaches an almost conventional melody. The tranquility shatters less than half way through, however, as Blum attacks the keys with the urgency of an improvised fire drill. He creates a vocabulary of undertones and overtones that are unique from his band mates while never thoughtless of the big picture.
There is no question that, despite his more notable trio members, this is Blum's project. The four tracks lodged between the title pieces are heavily dominated by piano, and each requires a high degree of agility from both Parker and Murray. This is not dinner music, but neither is it inaccessible. Blum is doing something very interesting with lyricism, but more through subterfuge than obvious presentation. In the Shade of the Sun demands attention and is well worth the time.
In the Shade of the Sun, Part 1; First and Last; Misanthrope's Dream; Out of this Nettle; Transmigration; In the Shade of the Sun, Part 2.
John Blum: piano; William Parker: bass; Sunny Murray: drums.
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