Michael Blake/Chroma Nova: Dance of the Mystic Bliss review | John Fordham’s jazz album of the month

(P&M Records)
The Canadian saxophonist showcases his flair for the intricate and spontaneous on an album that spans funky guitar hooks to Ellingtonesque reveries

The skilful and imaginative Canadian saxophonist and composer Michael Blake made himself something of an enigma to the straight-jazz crowd by devoting his early career to culture-hopping personal projects, and years with John Lurie’s Lounge Lizards, the cult band on the borders of avant-jazz, rock, film-noir music and minimalism. In the 1990s, Blake’s talents could have put him alongside his gifted peers in the international jazz polls, but while many focused on updates of classic jazz traditions, he didn’t, and still doesn’t. Now 59, he retains the inviting flair he has always had – for rich intricacy snaking through a folksy melodic openness, and spontaneous resources embracing swing, improv and the contemporary freebop of sax stars such as David Liebman (one of his first tutors), Joe Lovano and the late Michael Brecker.

On Dance of the Mystic Bliss – a dreamy title that slightly short-changes the joyous audacity of this music – Blake surrounds himself with a dynamic Brazilian trio comprising two percussionists and exciting guitarist Guilherme Monteiro, plus New York folk/psychedelia violinist Skye Steele (uncorking a storming free-barndance hoedown on the dirgily Ornettish Sagra here), cellist Christopher Hoffman and bassist Michael Bates.

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