Loren Stillman

Blind Date

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When it comes to jazz, some dogmatic individuals suffer from an either/or mentality. They might assume that if you are playing bop at all, you are a rigid purist who would never dreaming of touching an electric bass -- or, dogmatists might assume that if you have any connection to the avant-garde, you must be playing the most extreme free jazz. But in reality, things aren't nearly so black and white. There are shades of gray in jazz, and Loren Stillman points to some of them on Blind Date. This 2006 recording, which finds the alto saxophonist offering original material exclusively, is neither an example of retro-boppers playing Charlie Parker standards nor an exercise in atonal chaos; Stillman, rather, keeps his options open and provides an album that is mildly avant-garde but not radically avant-garde. One of the strongest influences on Stillman's alto playing is Lee Konitz, but Blind Date never sounds like cool jazz -- not at all. Instead, Stillman shows some appreciation of Konitz in his tone but delivers inside/outside material that has one foot in post-bop and the other in jazz's avant-garde. But even on Blind Date's most outside solos, Stillman is never heavy-handed or confrontational; when Stillman goes outside, his solos bring to mind the reflective, pensive AACM school of avant-garde playing rather than the ferocious, dense, scorching atonality one expects from a free jazz firebrand like Charles Gayle. This noteworthy release demonstrates that there is no reason why a saxophonist who has been influenced by Konitz cannot learn a few things from Anthony Braxton and Roscoe Mitchell as well.

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