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Seamus Blake / Chris Cheek: Let's Call the Whole Thing Off

Edward Blanco By

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Friends and musical collaborators for more than two decades, New York tenor saxophonists Seamus Blake and Chris Cheek have been leaders, sidemen and big band soloist throughout their distinguished careers and seem to cherish their roles as co-leaders on joint projects such as their critically-acclaimed Reeds Ramble (Criss Cross Jazz, 2014). Let's Call the Whole Thing Off is their follow up album bringing together the same quintet they call Reeds Ramble which include pianist Ethan Iverson, bassist Matt Penman and drummer Jochen Rueckert, comprising one of the finest rhythm sections in the business.

On tap is a varied selection of straight ahead jazz drawing on a couple of originals and music from such icons as George Gershwin, Antonio Carlos Jobim and Irving Berlin among others. Leading off with the atmospheric and lyrical Gershwin classic, the two tenors go back and forth on their call and response on this mid-tempo light swinger that also features Iverson's delicate intro and the drummers fine brush and stick work. Blake's original "Choro Blanco" (penned many years ago as a result of a class assignment from Argentinian bandleader Guillermo Klein), provides a taste of the Latin style providing a perky and lively tempo where the duo seems to be having some fun on a Chorro turned jazzy.

Loosely based on the Miles Davis composition "Solar," the Cheek original "Lunar" is a somewhat somber and dark tune that delivers many bright spots from the play of the co-leaders followed nicely by the in kind balladic "La Cancion que Falta" (the song that is missing), a piece from their Argentinian colleague Klein, that also contains softer elements providing the pianist opportunity to shine. The original arrangement had two trumpets as a feature while this version delivers that lead to the tenors. Performed by such greats as Chet Atkins and Julian "Cannonball" Adderley, "Limehouse Blues" is one of those barnburners that gets the whole band involved including bassist Penman who has some fine bass lines here as the two saxophonist play in unison.

Clearly, one of the keepers of the session, has to be this rendition of Jobim's lesser-known tune, "Surfboard" where the harmony and groove provide the drive and the solo opportunities for the duo tenors. The warm spot of this outing goes to "Count Your Blessings," the Berlin ballad from the 1954 film White Christmas where by Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney serve as the inspiration for this arrangement in which the co-leaders soft and tender voicings replace the legendary vocal duet, supported ably by the soft sounds of the rhythms.

The Jerry Snook finale "A Little Evil," a popular tune from guitarist Atkins' 1963 album Teen Scene, that contains a two-guitar melody line, is reimagined here and works quite well with the saxophones instead of the guitars on the melody. An appealing session of saxophone sounds where the reeds do indeed ramble, Let's Call the Whole Thing Off is a thoroughly engaging musical statement from two dynamos of the saxophone, Seamus Blake and Chris Cheek.

Track Listing: Let's Call the Whole Thing Off; Choro Blanco; Lunar; La Cancion Que Falta; Limehouse Blues; Surfboard; Count Your Blessings; A Little Evil.

Personnel: Seamus Blake: tenor saxophone; Chris Cheek: tenor saxophone; Ethan Iverson: piano; Matt Penman: bass; Jochen Rueckert: drums.

Title: Let's Call the Whole Thing Off | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Criss Cross

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