Monday, November 23, 2009

Seamus Blake - Bellwether (Criss Cross, 2009)

Saxophonist and composer Seamus Blake has become an established bandleader and a first call sideman for the likes of John Scofield and the Mingus Big Band. On this album, he is joined by David Kikoski on piano, Lage Lund on guitar, Matt Clohesy on bass, drummer Bill Stewart on drums. "Dance Me Home" is an uptempo performance with creamy saxophone improvisation that is fast and intricate with guitar shadowing. Fleet piano with solid bass and drum accompaniment follow then complex collective improvisation and then melody conclude the song. "Beleza Que Vem" has mild saxophone and mid tempo piano supple and light playing off of Blake's pastel flavored soprano. Lund takes a light and floating solo. "Subterfuge" begins in mid-tepmo, coiling energy before Blake confidently steps out on tenor saxophone for a strong and fast solo. Lund is a little more cautious in his approach, backed by the piano trio. Blake's tenor comes back and wraps things up leading a melodic full band improvisation. "Song That Lives Inside" is a gentle ballad opening with acoustic guitar and subtle tenor saxophone. Patient brushed percussion and persistent bass anchor a solid performance. "Bellwether" is taken at an intermediate tempo, anchored by a swinging saxophone solo. Pinpoint guitar builds slowly and patiently before being reeled in for a nice group conclusion. "Minor Celebrity" was the highlight of the album for me starting with a fast paced boppish theme building to an accelerated tenor saxophone that is agile and filled with ideas. "String Quartet in G Minor, Opus 10" wraps up the album with an intricate and emotional performance. This was a very well done album, the musicians had a clear goal in mind and they executed very well. The music here is representative of the music of the modern mainstream in jazz and it is stimulating music played by talented musicians.
Bellwether -

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