Seamus Blake-not yet a household name in jazz circles, but should be in the years to come. Blake is a tenor saxophonist who has been cutting his teeth with the Mingus Big Band and the groups of John Scofield, Bill Stewart, Kevin Hays, and his own "Bloomdaddies." A recent release entitled "Live Au Cabaret," in collaboration with the Montreal-based Daniel Thouin Trio, is a great introduction to a relatively new voice on the tenor saxophone.
Blake's sinewy tone has shades of Wayne Shorter, Joe Lovano, Michael Brecker, and other members of the post-Coltrane continuum, yet he never relies on rehashing anyone's phrases. Five of the recording's six tracks are from Blake's pen, including the opener, "Happen Stance," a tune with an angular but groovy Shorter/Hancock vibe. Blake is a fine composer, and likewise, his solos have a strong compositional feel. On this first track, Blake lets his story unfold without hurry or artifice. Motif builds on motif, phrase upon phrase, organically, with nary a non sequitur. His lines are logical yet never predictable.
Daniel Thouin, a pianist new to me, has many interesting ideas and a compelling springy touch. He coaxes some nice colors from his Fender Rhodes on "Perk," Blake's tribute to "caffeine and stimulants everywhere." The edgy Eddie Harris/Les McCann meets Miles-in-the-seventies groove is a journey, going from softly slinky to a Rhodes ring-modulator grunge fest through a dark bass solo, into a Spanish-tinged rubato free-land, finally segueing seamlessly into "Extranjero." This third track (Spanish for "foreign" or "foreigner") is another voyage, this time going through moods of melancholia, indignation, and stabilization, perhaps a reflection of a common immigrant experience.
Bassist Norman Lachapelle's double-stop bass figures propel Thouin into orbit on Blake's "Vanguard Blues," after which the bassist takes a fine solo. "Cloud," by drummer Karl Jannuska, is the only non-Blake composition of the set, and is a ballad with a floating feel that I can not imagine could be played any prettier. The band generates a nice swagger on "The Call" that would not have sounded out of place on McCoy Tyner's classic album "The Real McCoy."
Upon first listen, my reaction was, "this is a live recording?" The sound is better than that on most studio recordings, and there is a refreshing absence of cash registers, clinking glasses, telephones, and other noises that plague many recordings from club dates. One might look at a lineup of tenor-piano-bass-drums and think, "heard it already, know what it's about." Think again. There is something new here in this sophisticated yet accessible set-not the kind of new that will necessarily bowl you over instantly, but one that reveals itself with a few listenings.