Oct 28, 2011
The Aquarian Suite is one of the CDs you look at and say, “Don’t I know these guys from somewhere…?”. If you are any kind of jazz fan, the answer is an unequivocal yes.
Blake has risen to prominence working for artists like Esperanza Spalding, Julian Lage and Danilo Perez. He is a saxophone player with great ability to mould his sound to different settings and timings without losing his own sense of self. For The Aquarian Suite, he has put together a piano-less quartet to record an album of original material dedicated to his many musical heroes. A lecturer in music history at Brooklyn College, Blake knows his stuff, both on and off the bandstand.
The band features an adventurous sounding bass from Jorge Roeder (Gary Burton, Lage, Maria Schneider), solid drumming from Richie Barshay (Spalding, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea) and a trumpet played by Jason Palmer (Greg Osby, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Ravi Coltrane) ready to tangle with Blake’s tenor sax and give no ground.
The material is uniformly strong, whether it’s the Monk-ish “Mister Who”, the ballad “You Cry So Pretty”, dedicated to Miles Davis, or my favorite, “The Whistler”, dedicated to bop legend Horace Silver. Blake kicks the tune off the a solo that recalls Ornette Coleman with its swirling reach, and then moves into tight interplay between Blake and Palmer, with Roeder providing perfectly placed fills to complete the sound.