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Monday, February 13, 2012

CD Review: Seamus Blake Quintet Live at Smalls

Seamus Blake’s most recent appearance in the north east was with guitarist Mark McKnight. The tenor saxophonist made a considerable impression with his solos dovetailing to great effect with McKnight’s wonderfully fluent fretwork. Live at Smalls recorded at Smalls Jazz Club in Greenwich Village NYC reaffirms Blake as one of the foremost tenor players on the scene. 
On this recording the excellent Lage Lund is the six-string foil to Blake’s distinctive tenor sound. Five numbers - all but one Blake originals – encourage the quintet to stretch-out in the intimate environs of Smalls. Subterfuge opens the set with Blake and Lage featured. Solo opportunities are many, yet this is a stellar line-up assembled by the bandleader - drummer Bill Stewart (heard in Newcastle some years ago) is superb throughout, so too pianist Dave Kikoski and bassist Matt Clohesy - making it a genuine five piece improvising ensemble. The opening bars of Amuse Bouche are deceptively playful prior to Blake unleashing some devastating tenor with Kikoski supplying Tyner-esque chords as Stewart urges further upper-register adventures. Lage gets in on the act before Blake comes back for more. Consequence takes it down for a while until taut tenor lines rachet-up the tension once more. The ballad selection - Stranger in Paradise – is as good as you will hear with the rhythm section in its element (hear the cheers following Kikoski’s solo). The set concludes with Fear of Rooming. Blake states the theme, Kikoski solos (cue applause!), Stewart swings it (rim-shots, crashing cymbals, the lot), tenor goes into orbit (hear the applause!), Lage wants a piece of it. This is great stuff if you like contemporary small group jazz. 
Seamus Blake Quintet Live at Smalls is on the house label smalls LIVE (SL – 0008).
Russell    

1 comment :

dan blake said...

Great review, Russell. Wonderful insights. I was fortunate to catch the band live for two consecutive nights (Feb 26/27) while visiting NY a short while ago.
Dan Blake

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