83

Jonathan Blake: The Eleventh Hour

Troy Collins By

Sign in to view read count
Some debut recordings encapsulate all of an aspiring artist's diverse interests; others are less ambitious, and merely document a particular ensemble or performance. The Eleventh Hour, an expansive tour de force by rising drummer Jonathan Blake, is a prime example of the former. Blake's successful merger of styles should come as no surprise; in addition to sideman gigs for Kenny Barron, Tom Harrell and the Mingus Big Band, he is the son of violinist John Blake—his roots run deep.

Part of the success of The Eleventh Hour can be attributed to Blake's considered balance between the stalwart contributions of his working group and a handful of all-star guest appearances. Blake's quintet features tight-knit personnel; tenor saxophonist Mark Turner and altoist Jaleel Shaw make an intrepid frontline, while pianist Kevin Hays and bassist Ben Street round out the energetic rhythm section. Their high profile company includes Harrell, Robert Glasper, Gregoire Maret and Tim Warfield, whose distinctive contributions enhance, rather than overshadow, the band's capable efforts.

The retro title track demonstrates the validity of Blake's collaborative ideas, drawing from a liberal jazz tradition that offers insight into his all-inclusive aesthetic. Reminiscent of Herbie Hancock's mid-1960s experiments, the groovy opener pits Maret's sinuous harmonica against Glasper's shimmering Rhodes, generating a kaleidoscopic array of tone colors that evoke a soulful hybrid of Toots Thielemans and Stevie Wonder.

Framed by memorable melodies, tuneful swingers like the stately "Rio's Dream" and lyrical "Time To Kill" are indicative of the record's scope, their elastic rhythmic and harmonic foundations providing ample freedom for probing individual statements. The tortuous intervals and shifting time signatures of the blistering piano-less quartet number "Of Things To Come" raises the energy level, while the evocative "Freefall" ventures into more abstract territory.

Blake revamps convention on the labyrinthine "No Left Turn" and funky "Clues." The former composition features a riveting tenor relay between Turner and Warfield, who navigate the same serial 12 tone row as John Coltrane's "Mile's Mode." The later piece inverts Thelonious Monk's "Evidence," yielding a quixotic theme both familiar and alien.

Though the majority of the date is comprised of originals, a handful of tastefully rendered covers illuminate the leader's expressive range. In addition to a sensitive interpretation of Randy Newman's ballad "Dexter's Tune" and a buoyant version of Harrell's "Blue News," a lush reworking of Glasper's pop-savvy "Canvas" concludes the session much as it began—highlighting the spirited rapport between Maret and Glasper.

Beyond his abilities as a composer and bandleader, Blake is an authoritative and incisive drummer whose infectious energy galvanizes his sidemen, without overpowering the proceedings. His exhilarating contributions reinforce the clarity and cohesiveness of The Eleventh Hour, a most compelling debut.

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; Jaleel Shaw: alto saxophone (1, 2, 5-7, 9); Mark Turner: tenor saxophone (1-4, 6-10); Kevin Hays: piano, Fender Rhodes (2-4, 7-9); Ben Street: bass; Tom Harrell: trumpet, flugelhorn (3, 5); Gregoire Maret: harmonica (1, 10); Robert Glasper: piano, Fender Rhodes (1, 5, 10); Tim Warfield: tenor saxophone (8).

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


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read A Night Walking Through Mirrors CD/LP/Track Review A Night Walking Through Mirrors
by Barry Witherden
Published: September 21, 2017
Read Jondo CD/LP/Track Review Jondo
by Jack Bowers
Published: September 21, 2017
Read Jazz Flute Traditions CD/LP/Track Review Jazz Flute Traditions
by Roger Farbey
Published: September 21, 2017
Read Nerve Dance CD/LP/Track Review Nerve Dance
by John Sharpe
Published: September 21, 2017
Read Déjà Vu CD/LP/Track Review Déjà Vu
by Troy Dostert
Published: September 20, 2017
Read Woody Guthrie - The Tribute Concerts CD/LP/Track Review Woody Guthrie - The Tribute Concerts
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: September 20, 2017
Read "Song of the Free Will" CD/LP/Track Review Song of the Free Will
by Dave Wayne
Published: November 16, 2016
Read "Buer: Book Of Angels Volume 31" CD/LP/Track Review Buer: Book Of Angels Volume 31
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: June 25, 2017
Read "A Dark and Stormy Day" CD/LP/Track Review A Dark and Stormy Day
by Dave Wayne
Published: March 1, 2017
Read "The Eighth Hour Of Amduat" CD/LP/Track Review The Eighth Hour Of Amduat
by Troy Dostert
Published: January 17, 2017
Read "Introducing...Rubén González" CD/LP/Track Review Introducing...Rubén González
by James Nadal
Published: June 16, 2017
Read "High Time" CD/LP/Track Review High Time
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: April 26, 2017

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

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