●SEAMUS BLAKE / GUARDIANS OF THE HEART MACHINE / WHIRLWIND RECORDINGS / UK / CD / WR4735 / 4055388386662 / 2,200円＋税
Guardians of the Heart Machine – the debut Whirlwind release from tenor saxophonist Seamus Blake – symbolizes and protects the importance of creating music with feeling, blending his considerable experience in contemporary jazz with three exciting players originally from the French scene – pianist Tony Tixier, double bassist Florent Nisse and drummer Gautier Garrigue.
Born in London, raised in Vancouver, and a student of Berklee, Blake has released eight albums as leader and contributed to numerous other recordings. Back in 2002 as winner of the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Saxophone Competition, he delighted in playing alongside Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter. Heralded as one of the most influential saxophonists of his generation, his extensive career has included collaborations with Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Dave Douglas, Antonio Sanchez, Michael Brecker; and as a member of John Scofield’s Quiet Band, the guitarist hailed him as “extraordinary – a total saxophonist.”
The ‘French Connection’ concept was pitched – specifically with Tixier, Nisse and Garrigue in mind – by jazz aficionado Olivier Saez, recalls Blake: “He was interested in hearing me alongside some younger, top-of-the-line French musicians. Olivier passionately puts his time and energy into music, and I was blown away by his organization and generosity when we toured France and Spain. I enjoyed how the quartet worked together, prompting us to then record over two days at Studio de Meudon, Paris.”
Blake wrote and arranged especially for these artists: “My idea was to bridge what I consider elements of European and American styles, writing music I like to play, but also with a European sensibility, including classical harmony and certain types of groove. I envisioned the strengths of each of the band members, having already toured with them. They’re versatile and adept, with the foundation, openness and energy to head in different directions; so their creative contributions became part of the spirit of the record.”
That verve is evident in the title track, whose anthemic drive and melodic hooks are informed by Blake’s indie-rock interest; and the loping gait of ‘Vaporbabe’ was inspired by the 9/8 hand-drum and clapping rhythms of a street band in Istanbul. Furtive ‘Sneaky D’ confirms the saxophonist’s penchant for strong melody, sparking off his rhythm section’s vitality, while Eddie del Barrio’s ‘I’m OK’ echoes the lusciousness of Stan Getz and Kenny Barron’s recording, Blake enjoying the space to solo on its elegant changes. Bristling ‘Lanota’ (read it backwards) extends the band’s sense of exploratory freedom, as does ‘Wandering Aengus’, taking WB Yeats’ poem as inspiration to traverse different key centres. Lively samba, ‘Betty in Rio’ (a contrefact on Benny Golson’s slow-swinging ‘Along Came Betty’) leads to Tixier’s amiable, countryfied ‘Blues for the Real Human Beings’; and ‘The Blasted Heath’ closes with Blake’s oblique observation of humanity’s impact on our planet.
“For me, jazz is essentially about improvising and the beauty of a solo”, explains Seamus Blake. “But while I grew up with and studied a lot of mainstream and traditional jazz, I also like to integrate and involve elements from outside of that world – so it’s refreshing to work with these younger guys.”
■Seamus Blake - saxophones and vocals
Tony Tixier - piano
Florent Nisse - double bass
Gautier Garrigue - drums
1.Guardians of The Heart Machine
7.Betty in Rio
8.Blues for the Real Human Beings
9.The Blasted Heath
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