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.