Recent listening, current

Monday, January 27, 2014

175. John Blake / A New Beginning (1988)

A New Beginning combines Blake's typically sonorous violin lines with elements of funk, soul jazz, and Brazilian and African rhythmical structures. The exciting music is buoyed by an interesting lineup featuring two keyboards, a drummer, and a percussionist. Gerald Veasley kicks out solid rhythms on the bass with a soulful and percussive technique that employs juicy slides and the occasional slap to emphasize his point. Between the deceptively catchy but challenging opener "Dream Lady" and the following "Samba Di Bahia" listeners get the idea that the group is capable of excelling in a variety of musics while maintaining a consistent level of performance and improvisation quality that is the album's hallmark. Dual keyboards (James Simmons, electric; Sumi Tonooka, acoustic) add to the bubbling rhythm section, Simmons for texture and Tonooka as the melodic foil for Blake. Not being familiar with Blake beyond his work with Grover Washington, I had lukewarm expectations when I picked this up, and was pleasantly surprised. It ends on a great tune, "Serengetti Dance."

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