Wednesday, May 01, 2019

Seamus Blake - Guardians Of The Heart Machine (Whirlwind Recordings, 2019)

Saxophonist Seamus Blake has had an extensive career which has included collaborations with well known jazz musicians and the recording of eight albums as a leader. This album places Balke in the company of some younger, up and coming French musicians: Tony Tixier on piano, Florent Nisse on bass and Gautier Garrigue on drums. The group toured through France and Spain and then recorded their album in Paris, combining elements of European and American styles of jazz in Blake's compositions. The opening title track "Guardians of the Heart Machine" builds gradually, with the rhythm team setting the pace and then Blake entering and patiently taking the music onto higher planes of improvisation. After leaving room for the trio to retrench, Blake plants his feet and firmly delivers an exciting and well articulated saxophone solo that moves through a logical narrative and makes for an excellent opening performance. "Sneaky D" also builds a strong melodic statement, joining forces with his rhythm section to create quite a thematic earworm. Percussive piano with crisp bass and drums keep things moving, with Blake returning to present a robust and steely toned tenor saxophone solo of his own, stretching out and really making his voice heard. The ballad "I'm OK" is quite beautiful and haunting, with Blake showing great restraint in using the the space to solo in an graceful manner. The rest of the band is up to the task as well with fine brushed percussion and dignified piano and bass playing. "Lanota" gets things moving quickly again, with a fast paced collective exploration right out of the gate. Blake is at his freeist here, opening up over bass and drums to a wide ranging and investigative saxophone solo, with quick flourishes of notes darting up and down the instrument. This is followed by an interesting samba, "Betty in Rio" which has some well played percussion setting Blake up for some wonderful sounding saxophone, where he achieves a bright and sunny tone that swoops and sways majestically in an splendid manner. Tixler provides excellent support, framing and trading sections with the leader, before uncorking Garrigue for a taut drum solo before everyone returns together for a dramatic and swinging conclusion. This was a very solid modern mainstream jazz album, Blake's themes and solos were fresh and interesting and his new French colleagues proved to be quite impressive. Playing with younger musicians and developing a cross cultural exchange can only enhance the music, so hopefully this will be a trend that continues. Guardians Of The Heart Machine - amazon.com

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