The Blueprint Project's fourth release finds them working with Han Bennink, one of the greatest drummers to come out of Europe, so there can be no faulting their choice of company. The music they make together is nothing short of glorious.
The program of group originals is understandably well tailored to the trio's distinctive group conception, something they've had the chance to hone over a period of time, and Bennink brings his characteristic work to bear in a way that's nothing short of a celebration of life.
The absence of a bassist lends the music an airy, spacious feel, and in an almost kinetic sense the music often has an edgy feel. This is abundantly obvious on "The Holly Stomp which not only opens proceedings, but also comes across like a manifesto commitment. The listener is left with no doubt of where the music is coming from, and it's a rarefied place indeed. Jared Sims's alto sax work has about it something of Oliver Lake's quicksilver edginess, but the point of reference is that and nothing more, which is just as it needs to be for music to be as singular as this.
That celebration of life referred to above is more than apparent on "Herbie Nichols which in its very title identifies one of the most unjustly neglected figures in the history of the music. Over the years it seems like Bennink has been engaged in a crusade to raise awareness of the music of jazz pianist and composer Herbie Nichols, not least through his work as a member of the ICP Orchestra, and here he brings his deep understanding and empathy to bear. The results are sublime.
"Ruby, I Think You're My Third Favorite is an exercise in mood music of the most profound order. The groove of the thing is enough to put a smile on the unhappiest of faces. The fact that the group takes it to another level with their improvisational skill proves that intuition is always an asset. Guitarist Eric Hofbauer is all over this one, covering the ground like a one-man rhythm section whilst Bennink shows also how crucial touch is. Drummers the world over could adopt his work on this one as an object lesson in deftness.
Tyson Rogers could perhaps have been imagining himself as the pianist in some whiskey bar in the last days of the Weimar Republic on "Bessie, With Angles. The effect is a microcosm of just how much musical knowledge these guys bring to the feast, especially when it's followed up by the lament with angles that is "Chillfreetmeistrodemus where Sims on clarinet wanders anything but aimlessly.
There can be times when it's difficult to define just what makes the music special, especially in view of a lot of the dull, conservative and downright anonymous stuff out there. This however is the real thing, music that is a working definition of just how uplifting human creativity can be. It's what those end-of-year polls were invented for.
The Holly Stomp; Herbie Nichols; The Fly and Dr. B; Captain Salvy Sets Sail; Ruby, I Think You're My Third Favorite; Bessie, With Angels; Chillfreetmeistrodemus; Jac-Mac Talkin'; Nu Noon at Yoshi's.
Jared Sims: alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, clarinet; Eric Hofbauer: guitar; Tyson Rogers: piano; Han Bennink: drums.