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Exhale by Arthur Blythe

Alto saxophonist Arthur Blythe has found a home at the Savant record label, putting out a disc a year for the last several years. Here he is joined by some of his long time cohorts, John Hicks on piano and organ, Bob Stewart on tuba and Cecil Brooks III on drums.

This is quite a mainstream date for Blythe, who throughout his career has gone back and forth (quite successfully) between mainstream hard bop and blues and more adventurous music that leans toward the avant-garde. The disc leads off with a couple of jazz standards, Coltrane’s "Cousin Mary" and Ellington’s "Come Sunday" both of which are taken at a rather easygoing pace.

Following the opening songs, there is a suite of music by Brooks entitled "Exhaust" which is made up of four rather fractured short pieces, two of which feature John Hicks on organ, an instrument upon which he has not recorded much, if at all. The short, broken nature of the suite makes it difficult to get a grip on.

The bluesy lope of Ellington’s "Night Train" follows, as does another Coltrane tune, "Eqiunox." All of the music played immaculately, but without the passion that is usually expected from Blythe, his acid tone unusually muted for this recording date. The strange Bob Stewart original "CT," filled with interesting smeared tuba morphs into another jazz standard, Miles Davis’ "All Blues" and then comes Nat King Cole’s "Straighten Up and Fly Right" and a snippet of Blythe’s "Exhale" and we've reached the end the disc.

Overall the disc leaves my with a strange feeling, one of opportunity lost - the cover tunes seem to offer few challenges to musicians of this caliber; and one of opportunities not yet explored - Hicks on organ? Blythe with is biting tone fronting an organ group? Both are fascinating possibilites. I hope that his contract with Savant is a long and fruitful one and he has an opportunity to explore some of these intriguing angles.

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Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Arthur Blythe
  • CD Title: Exhale
  • Genre: Contemporary Jazz / Modern
  • Year Released: 2003
  • Record Label: Savant
  • Tracks: Night Train; Straighten Up & Fly Right; Cousin Mary; Come Sunday; nine others.
  • Musicians: A.B.: alto sax; John Hicks: piano, organ; Bob Stewart: tuba; Cecil Brooks III: drums.
  • Rating: Three Stars
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