Seamus Blake CD reviewed | Ottawa Citizen

Guardians of the Heart Machine (Whirlwind Recordings)
Seamus Blake

By now, it ought to come as no shock — particularly to Canadian jazz followers who declare his as one in every of their very own  — when saxophonist Seamus Blake places out one other nice document.

The 48-year-old has been impressing us for half his life now, since his distinguished debut disc The Call got here out in 1994 on Criss Cross Jazz. Subsequent albums on that Dutch label, plus the 5Passion and Smalls Live and Jazz Eyes label, have reaffirmed Blake’s top-tier talents as an improviser and his knack for writing contemporary and earworm-worthy tunes.

Released in mid-March, Blake’s newest album Guardians of the Heart Machine extends this streak. Blake is as commanding and fluent as you’ve come to anticipate, and its cache of the saxophonist’s originals, whether or not they’re hard-hitting and groove-forward or extra plaintive and even weak, are catchy sufficient to demand repeated listens.

What is new about Guardians of the Heart Machine is Blake’s new band, which consists of the younger French-born gamers Tony Tixier on the piano, bassist Florent Nisse and drummer Gautier Garrigue, who’re of their mid-30s. While they’re removed from jazz-world family names, these French musicians give Blake and his music all of the assist wanted after which some, all of the whereas injecting the proceedings with a new-generation sensibility.

In the press launch for the album, Blake stated he developed the music with these new colleagues in thoughts. “My concept was to bridge what I think about parts of European and American types, writing music I prefer to play, but additionally with a European sensibility,, together with classical concord and sure kinds of groove.

“I envisioned the strengths of every of the band members, having already toured with them,” he continued. “They’re versatile and adept, with the foundation, openness and energy to head in different directions; so their creative contributions became part of the spirit of the record.”

The proof is within the listening. Here’s the rousing title monitor, which opens the album:

And right here’s the second tune Vaporbabe, which regardless of its plaintive vibe characteristic a few of Blake’s signature saxophone heroism:

Sneaky D coasts alongside on a chattering up to date groove and has an infectiously poppy vibe. On I’m Okay, Blake covers a beautiful ballad by keyboardist Eddie del Barrio that Stan Getz recorded on his swan-song launch People Time. Blake’s model has the tenderness and gravitas to face up to comparability to Getz’s elegant work. Here’s a stay model from the quartet’s 2017 tour, prematurely of its recording session:

Lanota, which follows, modifications the channel to supply music that’s extra tense, pulsating and unfettered. Tixier’s solo particularly reveals off what he, Nisse and Garrigue can do once they’re left to their very own units and the musical borders are pushed again.

Wandering Aengus is a straightforward and unabashedly fairly tune. On it, the purity of Blake’s sound and his path emotional attraction shine via, whereas Tixier takes a swirling, successful solo with plenty of poise. More bubbly is the samba-ish Betty In Rio, which fuses the harmonic inspiration of Benny Golson’s bopping hit Along Came Betty with the rhythmic effervescence of Brazil.

Pianist Tixier’s contribution Blues for the Real Human Beings is a sluggish, loping tune that’s lyrical and uplifting. Blake closes his album with a vocal lament, placing down his saxophone to sing his dour, chastening tune The Blasted Heath.

I’ll most likely at all times consider Blake because the formidable arriviste that he was within the early ’90s. I first heard and met him then, and he blew my thoughts. But Guardians of the Heart Machine is forcing me, and in essentially the most pleasing method, to listen to him additionally as a mentor and main mild for at this time’s wave of up-and-comers.

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