The idea of having a blowing session is sometimes thought of as a bit mechanical, a quick way to get something on tape without too much complication. On the other hand, blowing sessions often have a particular atmosphere about them that make them memorable. Think of such classics as Johnny Griffin's A Blowin' Session
(Blue Note, 1958) and Jackie McLean's Lights Out!
(Prestige, 1956), with their late-night smoky feel and untamed passion which seem to embody everything there is to love about jazz.
True enough, a blowing session can also be a tiresome parade of clichés, giving the feeling of "another day at the office, but the format allows for surprises and, in the best of all worlds, something new and exciting can happen.
Trumpeter Brian Chahley's This Way has all the qualities of a good blowing session. There is spontaneous feeling and freshness here, underlined by the fact that the session was recorded in just two hours one evening in January, 2007. The album consists of six tunes, all penned by the leader except the opener, "Mollie By Match, Sonia By Sunlight, courtesy of saxophonist Lucas Pino. The tune is a classic workout, with the trumpet and sax playing in unison to great effect.
On "Gee, Laila," pianist Glenn Zaleski switches to keyboard, thus exchanging an organic piano sound for a Rhodes imitation, providing a more contemporary feel that is later revisited on "Skating Laurie.
The group is best, however, on the classic sounding tunes. "Seeking Clarity" is a highlight, with its wonderful, melodic lines. Chahley starts alone on the introduction to what sounds like a ballad, but soon Chris Smith sets in with a pulsating groove on the bass and the structure changes, providing space for Pino's furious saxophone flights.
"Out Of Focus" finds the group swinging in a relaxed mood. Zaleski carefully places his chords like pearls on a string, while Chahley explores the upper register. His tone has the intensity and dryness of Lee Morgan and his sense of structure is combined with a fertile imagination.
The grand finale "What You Mean to Me," shows Chahley to be capable of more than just blowing fast and hard. Here he envisions the same understanding of silence and space that has made Tomasz Stanko such a brilliant, idiosyncratic stylist.
Most of all, though, This Way is a group effort. The musicians are not reading sheets, they are reading each other and they do it with passion and understanding. Chahley and his group have made a joyous record that succeeds in blowing the blues away.