Arthur Blythe / Arthur Blythe Trio

Spirits In the Field

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On this live club date, recorded at the Bim Huis in Amsterdam, Blythe and his combo (tubaist Bob Stewart and drummer Cecil Brooks III) perform a nice cross section of his most familiar material. Blythe's husky, virile alto sax has never sounded better, and though the recording quality is a little thin, the music comes roaring through the speakers nonetheless. The good-time swinger "One Mint Julep" kicks things off, and is followed by the rambling bopper "Miss Nancy," which is the leader at perhaps his most quintessential. The showstopper is a reworked, energized "Odessa," on which Brooks uses his mallets to fine effect, Stewart blows a minimal but insistent tuba, and Blythe unfurls more of his startling improvisational legerdemain. A quirky, elusive 9/8 rhythm informs the tuba modality of "Rambler," and the title track sports a sneaky melody and a short but free discourse without drums. The trio digs right in on "Lenox Avenue Breakdown," even dispensing with an intro. The slow waltz "Ah George, We Hardly Knew You" (written by Don Pullen for George Adams) and the funky and fat "Break Tune #2" close this satisfying set. In his insightful liner notes, Francis Davis questions Blythe's diminished cachet among critics. That he's moved back home to San Diego from New York City might be an issue, but it doesn't detract from the fact that Blythe's sound and vision remain as fresh and vital as ever.

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