The album opens nicely with Eric Hofbauer's Monkish, bop-derived "The High Priest's Sermon," followed by Tyson Rogers' chromatic-tinged "Until We Have Names." One of the things the Blueprint Project does especially well is to juxtapose different musical idioms in unusual ways. Rogers injects some serialistic runs into Jared Sims' post-bop workout "Monkey." Sims' "The Old County" is played to a tango rhythm, but his soprano sax sounds like a Klezmer clarinet. Rogers' "Abdullah" begins with an elegiac, gospel-tinged piano theme that opens up and builds to a crescendo of collective improvisation a la Prime Time or one of Roscoe Mitchell's Ensembles. Or, dare I say, the Grateful Dead? It's certainly a similar approach to getting lost, and while Hofbauer's playing is free of Garciaisms, his "Bench Carvin'" consists of a 12/8 vamp very similar to the Dead's "The Other One." But, then again, Prime Time may be the best fit after all; his rapid fire and occasionally disjointed picking on "Monkey" recalls Bern Nix.
The players on The Blueprint Project excel as composers as players. The album is full of striking rhythms and harmonic ideas. The groups collective approach to improvisation is a complete success, each player getting opportunities to shine while simultaneously allowing the other players to claim a piece of the spotlight. McBee is the perfect ringer for the group, possessing both the melodic gift to follow the group in its musical flights and the veteran savvy to keep them honest. A tremendous effort from a group with a lot of promise.