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Seamus Blake Quintet: Live At Smalls

Bruce Lindsay By

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Recorded at the Greenwich Village club on August 31st and September 1st 2009, Live At Smalls showcases the inventive sound of English-born, Canadian-raised and New York-based Seamus Blake. The tenor saxophonist's career to date includes membership in the Mingus Big Band, BANN and the Victor Lewis Quintet, as well as his own combos. Live At Smalls finds Blake leading a sharp and swinging quintet on a series of post-bop originals and a cover of "Stranger in Paradise."

The quintet on these dates also appears on Bellwether (Criss Cross, 2010). The musicians work well together, as an ensemble and also in the soloist/rhythm section format, always complementary in their approach. Blake is a strong player, capable of fast and fairly wild solos, without any danger of losing control. He's also able to craft a more romantic and reflective sound, as he shows on "Stranger in Paradise" or his own "Consequence."

Guitarist Lage Lund is also impressive, both for his precise and crystal clear picking and his fluid and melodic sound. Lund's solos on "Subterfuge" and "Amuse Bouche" are lovely examples of these qualities, bringing well-deserved whoops of pleasure from the crowd.

The tight and flexible rhythm section underpins Blake and Lund's lead work with flair. Bill Stewart and Matt Clohesy set up stylish rhythms on the ballads and the more up-tempo tunes alike. Stewart's drumming is at the front of the mix—occasionally too far to the front, to the detriment of Clohesy's bass sound. Pianist David Kikoski's spacious comping is always effective, while his solo work on "Consequence" and his interplay with Blake on "Stranger in Paradise" are lyrical and romantic.

Live At Smalls documents a quintet on top form in front of an appreciative crowd. Spike Wilner's production ensures that the live atmosphere infuses the entire album, giving a real sense of "jazz as it happens" in this classic venue.

Track Listing: Subterfuge; Amuse Bouche; Consequence; Stranger in Paradise; Fear of Rooming.

Personnel: Seamus Blake: tenor saxophone; Lage Lund: guitar; Dave Kikoski: piano; Matt Clohesy: bass: Bill Stewart: drums.

Title: Live At Smalls | Year Released: 2011

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