All About Jazz needs your help and we have a deal. Pay $20 and we'll hide those six pesky Google ads that appear on every page, plus this box and the slideout box on the right for a full year! You'll also fund website expansion.
The shrill opening blast of tenor saxophone, like a wailing-woman mourner, announces that Right Before Your Very Ears is a departure for saxophonist Michael Blake. Visceral and immediate, the emphasis is on the playing, especially Blake's, in the stripped-down sax plus rhythm setting.
This is the first document of Blake's working trio with bassist Ben Allison and drummer Jeff Ballard, players with a long and intertwined history. Their familiarity brings focus to the loose arrangements and copious improvisations that Blake had in mind. Recorded after touring, the performances are confident and spontaneity was fostered in the studio by cutting mostly first takes. The live feel is enhanced by the raw production.
After igniting the extemporaneous "Run for Cover, with its manic blowing and tumbling rhythms tempered by hushed moments, the trio tests "Funhouse. An oldie from the Blake songbook making its recorded debut, its wry melody is buoyed by Ballard's swinging groove punctuated with off-kilter fills. Its sketched form allows the trio to stretch, including a quasi-walking but still melodic solo from Allison and Ballard's run that implies the form and maintains the momentum as he rolls around the kit.
The episodic "Flip is propelled by rhythmic inventiveness. After a slack section featuring Blake's note-twisting, breathy runsat times in clever unison with Allisonthe bass and drums slide into a locomotive feel that carries Blake's punchy, infectious line. The rapport among the trio is obvious and the flowing shifts of theme preclude redundancy and predictability. For instance, "All of this is Yours takes several twists of feelfrom impressionistic to groovingwhile Blake's yearning tenor displays the emotiveness that has always given his music depth and resonance.
Track Listing: Run for Cover;
Right Before Your Very Ears;
Fly with the Wind;
San Francisco Holiday;
All of this is Yours;
Personnel: Michael Blake: saxophones; Ben Allison: bass; Jeff Ballard: drums.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.