Blaine Whittaker

Bright Lights in Babylon

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Blaine Whittaker is one of the brightest sax players in a land populated by some pretty good reed men, viz., Australia. This album features Whittaker's first-recorded extended work, a musical expression of New York City in three movements and running for almost 25 minutes. The first movement, "Bright Lights in Babylon," done at quick tempo, captures the vibrancy and vitality of the Big Apple as represented by the bright lights of Times Square at night. The second movement, "Melancholy Me," might well capture the feelings of homesickness of a young Australian jazzer making his maiden pilgrimage to the City. The plaintive muted trumpet of Warwick Alder expresses that sense of loneliness. But when Jeremy Borthwick's trombone takes over, there is a sense that things might be brightening up. The last movement, "Healer in the House," kicks off with some strutting measures before segueing into a joyous recitation of a classic jam session commonly heard at Jimmy Ryan's club, located in the sanctuary of jazz in the mid-'30s and 1940s, 52nd Street. Each of the movements follows logically from the other and, when taken together, offers an exciting musical impression of the City. An ambitious undertaking that smacks of outstanding writing, numerous opportunities for improvisation, and on-the-mark performances. The other cuts are mostly Whittaker originals and classic jazz pieces symbolizing the progressive jazz proclivities of Whittaker and his group. The one standard, "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face," has Whittaker playing a soulful alto while engaging in interesting counterpoint with Peter Zog's guitar. This album has much to offer and is further proof that the land down under is a place where good jazz seems to flourish. Recommended.

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