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April 2008

Michael Blake Sextet
Amor de Cosmos
Songlines

Michael Blake is one of an all-too-common subset of the jazz community: players who create brilliant music while flying largely under the radar of widespread critical and/or popular acclaim. “Amor de Cosmos” was the name taken by William Alexander Smith, an unconventional 19th-century British Columbian politician and journalist who served as one of Blake’s inspirations in creating this music—composed, as it was, for an all-Canadian lineup that includes the Shorter-ish Blake on tenor and soprano saxes, Brad Turner on trumpet and Dylan van der Schyff on drums. The music is typical of Blake, drawing on free improvisation, modern classical forms, backbeat funk, straightahead swing, calypso and whatever falls into the cracks separating those disparate idioms. The title track stands out; it’s remindful of early, I Sing the Body Electric-era Weather Report, complete with overdriven Rhodes, dense percussion and a beautiful sustained unison melody by Turner and Blake. Like most of Blake’s projects, this one is as good as it is different from his last. One hopes the public—or at least the critics—will get hip to it eventually.

Originally published in April 2008
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