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Samuel Blaser Quartet: As the Sea

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Doubt not that As the Sea is a demanding recording. If you do, the eight and a half minutes “Part 1” takes to get anywhere will dispel you of that doubt quickly. There are pleasures to be found on trombonist Samuel Blaser’s four-part work; the finding is the challenge, buried as those delights are among long stretches of quiet that go past subtle and into inaudible.

It’s fairly simple logic: The record ebbs and flows (hence its title). Parts 1 and 3 are soft and lethargic; 2 and 4 loud, kinetic and groove-centered. Blaser and bassist Bänz Oester build “Part 2” on a stomping, funky riff. Though Blaser and guitarist Marc Ducret’s subsequent solos are atonal, the funk groove-now sustained by Gerald Cleaver’s crash cymbals-renders them digestible. “Part 4” begins with an unaccompanied Blaser lick that he repeats over an elusive, Threadgill-like rhythm matrix from the others. It creates a distinctive rhythmic feel that becomes the soloists’ (again, Blaser and Ducret) and listeners’ guidewire, even without melodic or harmonic footholds.

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