Alex Blake has been around the block a few times, playing bass (acoustic and electric) for a list of leaders that run the gamut: Dizzy Gillespie, Billy Cobham, Jimmy Buffet, Manhattan Transfer and Randy Weston to name only a few. Here he gets to lead a small band with a couple of real heavyweights, tenor saxophonist Pharoah Sanders and pianist John Hicks. NOW... is a live recording where everyone get to stretch-out and roar, but the band never loses the focus or momentum of Blake's affable tunes. Hicks swings like crazy, maintaining a sparkling, lyrical drive throughout. Sanders keeps a tight rein on his "scream" for the most part, leaning instead towards the joyous, swaggering manner that defines tenor giants like Johnny Griffin and Gene Ammons. Blake has a powerful sense of forward motion, melody and a taut, supple, in-your-face tone. Hell, he plays that big standup bass like a big ol' guitar, and really shines on "The Chief," slappin' that bass like he's at the Party At The End Of The World.
The recording quality is a bit off-balance--Sanders and Hicks sound a tiny bit more "distanced" from Blake and percussionists Victor Jones and Neil Clark. But don't let that stop you--NOW... is quite the Party du Jass.