Last Minute Gifts
Trumpeter Rob Blakeslee leads his Oregon-based band through a series of labyrinthine excursions on Last Minute Gifts. Rooted in freer forms of early '60s jazz, the pianoless quartet-trombonist Michael Vlatkovich, bassist Clyde Reed and drummer Dave Storrs-features abrupt tempo changes, shifting rhythms and corkscrew improvisations. By now we're long accustomed to the unpredictable, and for the band's chosen path the surprising turnabouts are attractive. If the program has a slight shortcoming, it's a similarity in tonality and changeable format, not the melodies or performances. Two pieces, however, have Latin beats of sorts: the beginning and ending of "Huff Creek Road" and the bass vamp throughout "Advice from a Pufferfish."
Blakeslee's delightful style is a blend of Alan Kiger and early Bill Dixon, a crepuscular sensibility tinged in mystery especially as heard on "Gilmore's Boys" and "It's Later Than You Think." Besides flugelhorn he plays various (though unidentified) trumpets. Storrs is gifted in his dynamic range and deployment of energy and rhythms, and Reed is an anchoring presence for the tempos and textures that emerge. Vlatkovich plays a snappy trombone and deserves much wider appreciation. And the entire band's talents are not just meant for the Pacific Northwest.