Ron Blake

Lest We Forget

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The veteran saxman loosely fashions his label debut as a tribute to three diverse and influential jazz legends, Stanley Turrentine, Grover Washington, Jr., and soul-jazz organist Charles Earland. Blake's more than up to the task of capturing the many moods of the first two, bringing a swinging blues panache to the jubilant "Sara's Dance" and sly seduction to "Minor Chant" (Turrentine), then a vibrant, soul-intensive pop-funk vibe to "Mister Magic." He grasps Washington's gentler Winelight side with his lighthearted, lyrical soprano on "Making Love to You." But how to capture the bluesy Hammond B-3 energy of Earland? Blake looked no further than Joey DeFrancesco, who brings his driving enthusiasm (and blazing sense of improv, where there are openings) to all but one of the tracks. The specifically Earland tunes are "More Today Than Yesterday" (which the late organist turned into a minor jazz standard) and "Mighty Burner." Blake approaches the first tune in a laid-back, understated way, playing it cool as DeFrancesco's harmonies brew underneath; they take things up a notch after a few minutes. "Mighty Burner" is a fiery barnburner from the get-go, speedy and soulful, with an opening melody played by trumpeter Rashawn Ross. The unique tribute also features the impeccable grooving drummer Greg Hutchinson and bassist Christian McBride, whose band has featured Blake since 2000.

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