Sunday, October 01, 2017

Blue Note All-Stars - Our Point of View (Blue Note, 2017)

The Blue Note label has put together some all star bands in the past, notably the New Directions group from 2000. This album as a new generation of players, featuring Ambrose Akinmusire on trumpet, Robert Glasper on keyboards, Derrick Hodge on bass, Lionel Loueke on guitar, Kendrick Scott on drums and Marcus Strickland on tenor saxophone. The focus is still the same, seamless ensemble playing and potent solo's on a mix of originals and label standards. "Cycling Through Reality" has a crisp beat, and the bright, well articulated horns fall into line, opening the path for fine solos beginning with a gutsy tenor spotlight, and cycling through to a strong trumpet feature. There are spots for synth solos that seem a little out of place but when the rhythm team takes command, they are very tight and power the music forward in a clean and direct manner. Wayne Shorter's classic "Witch Hunt" gets a massive seventeen minute plus blowout. The theme is instantly recognizable, and the musicians make the most of it, with the excellent group playing and range of declamatory solo statements making this the centerpiece and highlight of the album. "Second Sight" develops a relaxed mid-tempo swing, sounding for all the world like a classic Blue Note hit from the 1960's just tweaked a little for guitar and snappy drumming. They bring in a couple of ringers by the names of Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter on "Masquelero" ramping up from a spacey opening with the horns easing in keeping the mysterious air to the music while teasing the melody. It's a very free sounding performance circa the '69 Miles Davis band, short solos bubble up throughout the performance, but the focus is on the arrangement. There is a nice piano introduction to "Bayyinah" that leads into some fender rhodes playing over subtly shifting drumming. It's another long performance with skittish percussion and lots of rhythmic development. A nice saxophone solo finally breaks loose after the five minute mark, straining to cut loose and succeeding in an impressive manner. This album works well all told, and these musicians are clearly a seriously talented bunch, but there is little showboating, and they produce a listenable and accessible modern mainstream jazz album. Our Point Of View  -

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