Monday, June 22, 2015

Samuel Blais, David Liebman, Cycling

Young saxophonist Samuel Blais studied with David Liebman at the Manhattan School of Music. The two were touring as part of a saxophone quartet. In Toronto they had a day off. Dave suggested they put together a quartet date and Samuel eagerly complied, calling on bassist Morgan Moore and drummer Martin Auguste, fixtures on the local scene who happened to be free. The result is the lively album Cycling (Effendi 137).

Samuel plays baritone, alto and soprano in the session; Dave plays both soprano and tenor. They pool their compositions, Samuel with four, Dave with two, plus the standard "Taste of Honey."

Things went very well indeed as the "tapes" were rolling. The compositional frameworks swing and there are generally some changes underneath it all. Blais and Liebman sound excellent as soloists and in a two-part setting, bassist Moore has a deeply evocative woody tone and plays very nice things. Auguste swings with a fine sense of the set and the sounds it can make.

Blais turns out to be quite excellent here. Liebman is his usual incredibly limber, masterful self. Put the two together and you have a wonderful front line with Blais holding his own, especially on baritone, but in any case flourishing alongside Lieb and keeping pace. I like the way the head structures make use of the two-sax sound but then the solos are what make this especially exciting. People may take Lieb for granted these days but they should not. Both he and Blais come at you with all the fire and finesse you could ask for, and the rhythm team gets a swinging froth on it all that makes this a sure winner. If you love the Lieb of the Elvin Jones days this has some of that open fire.

It's one of Lieb's best outings of late and Blais sounds great, too. Get this one if you can.

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