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 was first exposed to jazz when I was tiny. My earliest memory is watching Ella Fitzgerald scat on a Christmas special when I was no older than four. Like many who are from tiny towns, my first extended exposure was listening to the high school jazz band when I was a kid
I was first exposed to jazz when I was tiny. My earliest memory is watching Ella Fitzgerald scat on a Christmas special when I was no older than four. Like many who are from tiny towns, my first extended exposure was listening to the high school jazz band when I was a kid. For some reason I remember an arrangement of Hey Jude they did. My first real exposure was Stan Kenton in the Smithville, MO high school gym. Kenton and the band director there were old friends, so he would play there from time to time. My dad took me without telling me where we were going and it was the only show he ever took me to. I remember that Bobby Shew played Send In Clowns and I damn near levitated I was so excited. The huge sound and amazing chords floored me. I believe I was 13 at the time. I immediately started practicing and taking lessons. Music became a passion and nearly a career. I also listened to Dick Wright's Jazz Show on KANU every night. I can't even start to explain what I learned lying in bed listening to Dick talk about jazz. I met him once when I was struggling to put together a solo for Joy Spring playing in a combo at KU. Stopped by his office and asked for recommendations. He showed up at my jazz ensemble rehearsal the next day with a tape with example solos. What a kind man Dick Wright was.
My advice to new listeners is to stop worrying about what music is important and focus on music you like. I spent quite a bit of my music life listening to important music I didn't necessarily like. Must say I have quite a bit more fun now listening to music that I deeply enjoy. Some of it is even important.
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