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Arthur Blythe/David Eyges/Bruce Ditmas: Synergy

The blues, the alto saxophone and the cello have created a surprisingly rich jazz legacy since the early ’70s. The partnership of Julius Hemphill and Abdul Wadud-epitomized by Hemphill’s classic “Dogon A.D.” and “The Hard Blues”-is its obvious cornerstone, but altoist Arthur Blythe and cellist David Eyges have also played crucial roles. Wadud was an integral part of Blythe’s late ’70s and early ’80s ensembles, as evidenced by In Concert, the CD reissue of Blythe’s two India Navigation LPs. The blues is the central element of two Music Unlimited LPs that are arguably Eyges’ best recordings as a leader: ’80’s The Arrow, with saxist Byard Lancaster and ’81’s Crossroads, with Lancaster and drummer Sunny Murray.

Unsurprisingly, the blues is front and center on Synergy, their absorbing collaboration with drummer Bruce Ditmas. This well-engineered album is the logical nexus of Blythe and Eyge’s respective celebrations of the idiom. Blythe’s trademark exultant cry, Eyges’ prodding riffs and Ditmas’ often explosive cadences give pieces like “Morning Call,” “Sociability” and the title piece a raw, roadhouse energy. Eyges’ solid-body electric cello is particularly cogent on these tracks, as it combines the sting of a guitar and the punch of an electric bass. The earthy intensity of the blues-based pieces is the glue of a compositionally varied program, which spans the open-ended propulsion of “Infinity,” the boppish snap of “Walking Line” and the gospel sway of “Afternoon Musings.” While the concept behind the album’s title is one of the more overbeaten dead horses in discussions of jazz and improvised music, it is applicable to the work of Blythe, Eyges and Ditmas.

Originally Published