95

Johnathan Blake: The Eleventh Hour

Mark F. Turner By

Sign in to view read count
The health of an organism is its ability to reproduce and a fine example of jazz's continued vitality is heard on drummer Johnathan Blake's The Eleventh Hour. The debut's excellence comes as no surprise, though. This son of violinist John Blake Jr is already carving his name as a young rhythmic dynamo whose growing credits include work with the Mingus Big Band, trumpeter Tom Harrell and guitarist Russell Malone.

With a frenzied schedule of gigs on other artists' projects, Blake has found time to lead his own band, documented here with an extremely hot quintet of longtime associates, including the supreme sax duo of Mark Turner and Jaleel Shaw, bassist Ben Street and newcomer to the group, pianist Kevin Hayes. Add flavorful guests such harmonicist Gregoire Maret and pianist Robert Glasper on Fender Rhodes to the all-star roster and the delayed release (originally completed in 2010) has plenty of potential. But to put a twist on an iconic saying "The names don't mean a thing if the music ain't got that swing," this is definitely not the case for this extraordinary debut.

Blake's two opening pieces are formidable. The title track opens with a lo-fi drum intro, and then unfolds with a nimble groove featuring harmonica and keyboard accents, plus beautiful serpentine solos from Turner and Maret. Blake works masterfully with stylish rim shots and flurried scissoring, always adding a creative stamp to the process. "Rio's Dream" has a nice melodic hook with spiraling harmonies, Hayes' searching piano work, and Shaw's fiery proclamation. The pieces not only have stylistic impetus but also leave memorable songlike imprints.

The question of whether or not the music swings is answered in Harrell's bopping "Blue News," where the trumpeter also contributes his glowing horn and the soloists freely explore, as Blake's kit and Street's walking bass line hold the rhythm tight. Blake also affirms this characteristic via his own writing skills on "Of Things To Come," with another exhausting cadence and detailed changes attributed to his early training on piano and violin.

Unusual avenues are traveled in "No Left Turn," with its thought-provoking pacing and alluring yet abstract qualities, as is "Clues," a deconstructed take on Thelonious Monk's "Evidence" where Blake trades blistering beats within an already difficult tempo. The music ends with Glasper's "Canvas," the essence of soulfulness and modernism as Glasper and Maret exchange intricate ideas. Blake's The Eleventh Hour might have been delayed but the music is right on time.

Track Listing: The Eleventh Hour; Rio's Dream; Blue News; Dexter's Tune; Time To Kill; Of Things To Come; Freefall; No Left Turn; Clues; Canvas.

Personnel: Johnathan Blake: drums; Mark Turner: tenor saxophone (1-4, 6-10); Jaleel Shaw: alto saxophone (1, 2, 5-7, 9); Ben Street: bass; Kevin Hayes: piano, Fender Rhodes (2-4, 7-9); Gregoire Maret: harmonica (1, 10); Robert Glasper: piano; Fender Rhodes (1, 5, 10); Timothy Warfield: tenor saxophone (8); Tom Harrell (3, 5).

Title: The Eleventh Hour | Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: Sunnyside Records


Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read ON Tour CD/LP/Track Review ON Tour
by John Kelman
Published: October 22, 2017
Read On a Distant Shore CD/LP/Track Review On a Distant Shore
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: October 22, 2017
Read Friends & Heroes: Guitar Duets CD/LP/Track Review Friends & Heroes: Guitar Duets
by Roger Farbey
Published: October 22, 2017
Read Signal 9 CD/LP/Track Review Signal 9
by Glenn Astarita
Published: October 22, 2017
Read For the Love of You CD/LP/Track Review For the Love of You
by Jack Bowers
Published: October 21, 2017
Read Recent Developments CD/LP/Track Review Recent Developments
by John Sharpe
Published: October 21, 2017
Read "Satori" CD/LP/Track Review Satori
by Roger Farbey
Published: March 7, 2017
Read "Sing House" CD/LP/Track Review Sing House
by Troy Dostert
Published: June 11, 2017
Read "What Time Is It?" CD/LP/Track Review What Time Is It?
by Jack Bowers
Published: June 6, 2017
Read "Day After Day" CD/LP/Track Review Day After Day
by John Eyles
Published: July 21, 2017
Read "Sedimental You" CD/LP/Track Review Sedimental You
by John Sharpe
Published: March 30, 2017
Read "Opening Statement" CD/LP/Track Review Opening Statement
by Jack Bowers
Published: May 3, 2017

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.