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Ron Blake: Shayari

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Ron Blake

The title of Roy Hargrove’s 1993 album, Of Kindred Souls, was taken from a composition by the trumpeter’s then-regular saxophonist, Ron Blake. The intriguing, hymnlike melody was first enunciated, naturally, by Hargrove, but Blake took the first solo, a solo that displayed his muscular tenor attack but which also too readily revealed his Coltrane influence. Both the writing and the playing hinted at great but not quite fulfilled potential.

Blake revisits “Of Kindred Souls” on his new album as a leader, Shayari (pronounced SHY-ree, an Urdu word for a stylized form of verse). This time the arrangement isn’t as dense and pushy as before, as if the composer needn’t rely on sheer muscle anymore. After the restrained opening by producer/pianist Michael Cain and guest violinist Regina Carter, Blake’s solo reconfigures the theme, relying on the tension between the old melody and the new to command attention as he once relied on lung power. The increased space and lyricism in the new arrangement sharpen the meditative qualities of the piece; thus Blake extends the legacy of Coltrane’s later spiritual compositions without sounding like Trane.

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