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Blake Meister: Septagon

John Ephland By

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Well-played, with an internal sense of melody that everyone gets. That's bassist Blake Meister's Septagon in a nutshell. And that "everyone" includes a crew worth paying attention to: pianist Marc Copland, drummer Ralph Peterson, guitarist Paul Bollenback and reed player Gary Thomas. They pretty much all get room to solo as they tackle the charts, the songs full of twists and turns. What Septagon doesn't have is a strong enough musical identity to keep you humming well after the music has stopped.

Some of the best spots are where Meister himself solos, which isn't on every tune; but when he does show up it sounds inevitable, fitting. He's right at home, his playing assured. And, with a penchant, it seems, to give everyone a say across all of his eight tunes, sans Peterson (who does pop out here and there), the younger Meister leads with a democratic hand, wisely taking advantage of the talent he has on board.

The energetic "Blackout" skirts the contours of John Coltrane's "Giant Steps," the arrangement cleverly inserting passages where the band basically introduces itself one by one to get things going. It's a sign of what's to come as the material stays within the well- honed parameters of mainstream acoustic jazz, Bollenbeck's electric guitar occasionally adding an edge in spots, as when he appears on the loose-limbed Latin number "Cynic" and on the medium-tempo blues swinger title track, which closes the set. And it's good to hear Copland in a more straight-ahead setting, his playing a good complement to Meister's, and Peterson's often- gregarious drumming curbed to fit the proceedings just so, Thomas' serene flute a nice touch along the way.

Septagon swings, it offers tuneful refrains and quiet interludes, e.g., "Falling (In Slow Motion)" is an apt description of what rolls out and how, its moody cadences and soft focus a welcome contrast to what is more often a gently rowdy ride. Overall, the impression left is of a music not quite fully formed, but maybe getting there.

Track Listing: Blackout; Sunken City; The Grind; Falling (In Slow Motion); Cynic; Market East; Sunset; Septagon.

Personnel: Blake Meister, bass; Gary Thomas, tenor saxophone, flute; Paul Bollenback, guitar; Marc Copland, piano; Ralph Peterson, drums.

Title: Septagon | Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: Inner Circle Music

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