Recorded live at the Village Vanguard in 1993 (as was the very fine RETROFLECTION), CALLING CARD presents Arthur Blythe with traditional jazz accompaniment. Each of the musicians is sensitive and focused throughout, most notably John Hicks with his light, deft keyboard phrasing. Blythe is in excellent form on every track, displaying his penchant for bridging genres and styles with surprising acuity.
"Blue Blues" evokes a smoky, Coleman Hawkins-like lyricism, while the shimmering "Naima's Love Song" captures a bit of Coltrane's ghost. Blythe's tone, which is strong and sinuous, is entirely his own and his improvisatory skill, among the best in contemporary jazz, is given full reign in these stretched-out arrangements. Fans of Blythe's early, avant-garde material may be surprised at the straightforward, largely traditional nature of this set--there's even a breezy Fats Waller cover in "Jitterbug Waltz." Even the edgier, more abstract pieces, such as "Odessa" and "As of Yet," are rendered with a delicacy and warmth that lends them an immediate accessibility. No matter what Blythe does--be it traditional jazz or avant garde exploration--his work always bears the mark of brilliance, and CALLING CARD is no exception.