Friday, May 8, 2015

Samuel Blaser Quartet, Spring Rain

Trombonist Samuel Blaser comes front-and-center in a new album that further cements his reputation as an important exponent on the new jazz scene. He and his quartet give us much to like on Spring Rain (Whirlwind 4670). It is a trombonist's tribute to Jimmy Giuffre, not what you might have especially expected if you know Blaser's previous work (type his name in the search box to get the previous reviews of his music here), but then when you listen it has a logic of its own that fits in with the Blaser approach and goes a long way to bring the Giuffre sensibility into today.

The album features three Giuffre compositions, two by Carla Bley and the rest Blaser originals that take some of the implications of vintage Giuffre and extend them. The band is a quartet that packs lots on invention and swing into the proceedings. Russ Lossing is on piano and keys, Drew Gress on bass, and Gerald Cleaver on drums. Samuel and the three are fully mature, innovative artists in their prime and the music shows it with excellence.

There is a Giuffre-like attention to sound statements on each instrument, trombone first and foremost but no less the piano-keys, the bass and the drums. They can engage in chamber like new improvisations out of time, in the manner of the middle-period Giuffre groups, they can swing heartily on thematically well-developed modes, and/or they can get vibrantly "free."

Blaser sounds great, choosing his notes carefully and colorfully, with even a nod to Mangelsdorfian multi-phonics but in the main an open-horn liquidity. Lossing comes through with some really fetching work. And the Gress-Cleaver rhythm team functions very nicely as part of the melodic invention as well as the propulsors of a very hip time sense.

I found this album a milestone in creative improv presentness. The choice themes when utilized inspire all to go further and the freely conceived moments continue the inspiration in a first-class fashion. Samuel Blaser is a top trombonist in the new jazz field and this quartet qualifies as one of the most vibrant out there today.

Need I say more?

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