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Michael Blake Captures the Old-School Tenor-Sax Spirit

"Let the good stuff happen"

Michael Blake

Saxophonist and composer Michael Blake’s 14th album, Tiddy Boom (Sunnyside), gestated in 2013, when he turned 50. A devotee of Coleman Hawkins since his teens, and a more recent acolyte of Lester Young, Blake applied for a grant from Chamber Music America to support him in preparing a suite of compositions titled Contrasts in Individualism. In it he reinterprets, in his own argot, the contrasting styles of those two roots of the tenor saxophone tree.

With the funds, Blake self-produced this new eight-tune disc that captures the essence of his subjects. The title stems from Young’s famously onomatopoeic instruction to drummers on how to articulate his preferred ride-cymbal beat. Stylistic Xeroxing is decidedly not the point-it’s a swinging affair, though drummer Rudy Royston intersperses more bombs than Young would have cared for 60-plus years ago. Yet the language and gestures of midcentury Hawkins and Young filter through, transported into present tense via interplay between the leader, pianist Frank Kimbrough and bassist Ben Allison.

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