Rob Blakeslee is a fiery trumpeter and subtle composer with a number of fine discs to his credit (check the California 9 Winds Label). Though it doesn’t highlight his most aggressive playing, Waterloo Ice House is perhaps the best of the bunch because of the fine ensemble writing and playing.
The disc showcases a refreshingly spacious, piano-less quartet and features longtime collaborator Rich Halley's adventurous saxophone work. The two horns work well together, and Blakeslee seems to have written many of the pieces with Halley in mind. The saxophonist (a fine leader in his own right) shows his appreciation with some of his best playing captured on CD. The funereal "Give Up the Chair" shows off their telepathy, Halley's solo building in an arc before handing off its final statement to Blakeslee, who follows with a subtle, poignant line leading back to the theme's perfect joint statement.
The rhythm section shows the same elasticity. Bassist Clyde Reed and drummer Dave Storrs tag-team with formidable skill; Reed's high-string pattering builds tension while Storrs' cymbals continually relieves it. The two offer the horns plenty of room to roam. On "Just What's Written" they stumble in and out of Blakeslee's solo as if they were dancing the tango in a dark room while fumbling for the light switch. It's chaotic fun and it works adding a playful touch to another creative music feast by the leader.