Monday, December 17, 2007

Michael Blake Sextet - Amor de Cosmos (Clean Feed, 2007)

The new album by saxophonist and composer Michael Blake is filled with thoughtful and complex improvisation. This is music that does not immediately grab your attention, but seeps into your subconsciousness after several listening sessions. Joining Blake on this disc are: Brad Turner on trumpet, Sal Ferreras on marimba and percussion, Chris Gestrin on keyboards, Andre Lachance on bass and Dylan van der Schyff drums. Over the course of his musical career both as a leader and as a sideman (notably with the Lounge Lizards) Blake has explored many facets of jazz and world music. On this disc he takes inspiration from Canadian journalist William Alexander Smith (who renamed himself Amor de Cosmos) and uses his writings as inspiration for a new set of compositions. Several of the compositions are lengthy, approaching ten minutes, and take their time exploring the musical terrain. The title track builds a thoughtful tenor saxophone solo over an insistent drumbeat to good effect, and then the track moves to truly cosmic territory with keyboards and shimmering cymbals. "So Long Seymour" adds marimba and fast moving drums to a fleet soprano saxophone solo for a memorable improvisation. The Clean Feed label has carved out a niche for itself in modern jazz as a label that encourages thoughtful improvisatory music, and Blake's newest disc is a solid example of that. The music is rick taking but never reckless and is a good addition to Blake's diverse discography.

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