By: Edward Blanco

Originally from Vancouver, Canada, New York-based saxophonist and composer Seamus Blake churns out another winning release, his seventh as leader featuring his eclectic quintet this time in a live setting—his second live album in three years (Live In Italy, 2008). Recorded in August and September of 2009 at Smalls Jazz Club in Greenwich Village, New York, Live At Smalls is an all out assault of modern progressive jazz with a take-no-prisoners aggressive attitude. Being a live set, you hear the applause and cheers from the audience during and after every performance.

Though there is more than fifty-six full minutes of music on this album, there are only five tunes ranging in duration from eight-minutes to almost fourteen-minutes. The positive side of this is that there is plenty of space for Blake and band mates to solo and they certainly do. With stalwarts players Dave Kikoski (piano), Lage Lund (guitar), Matt Clohesty (bass) and Bill Stewart (drums) returning for yet another project, the group is as solid and cohesive as ever.

“Subterfuge” is the first of four Blake originals and begins the modern live set with a bang as there are certainly no whimpers here. Blake’s hard blowing approach on the tenor continues on “Amuse Bouche” delivering more saxophone salvos and leading the music to its blissful conclusion. With few exceptions, the majority of the pieces are hard and heavy up beat affairs but the light and tender “Consequence,” is an exception and highlights the piano chops of Kikoski as his fingers glide over the keys on a beautiful number.

The Robert Wright/George Forrest classic composition “Stranger In Paradise” is the only cover tune and is the other exceptional light touch of the album. This one provides several members the opportunity to shine with their individual solos. “Fear of Rooming” closes the session capping another sizzling performance from Blake and his crew to cheers and calls for more from the crowd. If you favor the modern side of jazz and can appreciate challenging charts and sophisticated play from saxophonist Seamus Blake and his first-rate quintet, then Live At Smalls should be your cup of tea.

Year: 2011
Label: Smalls Live
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