Amor de Cosmos

Michael Blake

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Amor de Cosmos Review

by Michael G. Nastos

Canadian musicians make music differently than the rest of the world, whether it be due to the extreme weather conditions, their generally peaceful nature, or that they appreciate freedom in a unique manner. Saxophonist Michael Blake chooses to play progressive jazz-based music rooted in his family's remembrances with a sextet of like-minded modern creative players that use admittedly traditional sounds in a non-traditional manner. This collection of original compositions uses collective themes and motifs that stretch the imagination, yet remains within a colorful framework of highly motivated and intelligent designs that bear little resemblance to standardized tune structures. Extended techniques and odd meters are at the center of Blake's personalized music, as he plays primarily tenor sax and some soprano to extend these older values into new music beyond simple categories. Trumpeter Brad Turner is a really good partner in these new dialogues, while Sal Ferreras on marimba adds the proper shadings and deep tones that enliven the music. Blake and the band like to play with time -- listen to "Temporary Constellation" with its cute waltz repetitions juxtaposed against a 9/8 ostinato piano and bassline in layers or vamps, very modern, both loose and tight, interactive, and admittedly akin to a musical palindrome. A traipse through parenting through a child's eyes identifies "Paddy Pie Face" for Blake's quirky but playful father via multiple staccato accents sped up frantically, while soprano sax and floating electronics set up a driving one-note bassline in a bluesy theme on the "I and we" dichotomy of the title track. There's a joyous African dance theme in 11/8 time for the purely melodic, light, and effortless "The Wash Away," while conversely dark remembrances of a bout with appendicitis and multiple surgeries inspired Blake to compose "The Infirmary," a dour and hopeless ballad feature for the rhythms section of pianist Chris Gestrin, bassist André Lachance, and drummer Dylan Van Der Schyff, with the horns in later. The two purely improvisatory pieces claim to be the most non-traditional, but in the scheme of history, have much established precedents to richly tap from. "Ghostlines" has the repeated, spacious, and ominous tones the title suggests, feeding on phrased feelings and acute listening skills. Where "The Hunt" differs is in its free, lower-key discourse from the players in a deeper-hued space where the notes are more approximated and vocal, but elusive. This music overall is brilliantly conceived and executed by a band relying on stellar musicianship to make their point of view in new modern music come to life. To love the cosmos in this case is to be the cosmos, traversing through various kinds of terrain to reach an end game of stellar regions, bringing terra firma along for the ride. This is an excellent musical statement, one that is highly recommended to progressive music listeners without hesitation.

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