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Last Minute Gifts by Rob Blakeslee Quartet

Just when I’ve darn near had it with the excesses and redundancies of jazz’s avant garde (skronk, doodle, wheeze, blatt) to the point where the only new jazz releases I feel like taking home are reissues of stuff recorded before 1960, SOMEbody’s gotta go and put out a disc that rekindles my interest in the "out" sound. Today I’ve been kicking out the jams to this, the latest platter by Oregon-based trumpeter Rob Blakeslee. Blakeslee will likely be familiar to fans of Michael Bisio, George Lewis, Anthony Braxton and Vinny Golia, all of whom he’s played and recorded with. Here’s a player whose sound owes little to Don Cherry, Freddie Hubbard or Miles Davis, though he does have some of Miles’ sense of space and silence. RB’s style is like unto a cross between Booker Little and Lester Bowie, but who he really reminds me of Andrew Hill.

He has a fine, unsentimental (though not cold or dry) sense of melody coupled with a crackling, vocalized tone (that he uses sparingly, I might add) and a similar angular sense of melody. Blakeslee’s compositions, too, are pretty keen - A. Hill-like as well, angular and abstract but not arduously so, but never completely forgoing swing or rhythm. Trombonist Michael Vlatkovich has a comparable style though a bit more punchy and vocal (a la Ray Anderson). Another real nice surprise is drummer Dave Storrs, who plays like a freer Shelly Manne and makes nifty, judicious use of polyrhythms. Bassist Clyde Reed has a nice, warm, open tone. All ‘n’ all, this is a fine serving of adventurous, brainy jazz that deserves a wider audience, and this Blakeslee fellow is a worthy heir the late Dr. Bowie’s mantle, I say.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Rob Blakeslee Quartet
  • CD Title: Last Minute Gifts
  • Genre: Free Jazz / Avante Garde
  • Year Released: 2000
  • Record Label: Louie Records
  • Rating: Three Stars
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