Alex Blake

Now Is the Time: Live at the Knitting Factory

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Now is the Time is a series of impeccably performed tracks culled from Alex Blake's live sessions at New York's Knitting Factory. Though nothing intensely brilliant evolves out of Now, the musicianship is paramount and unmatched on any late-'90s jazz recordings. Blake, who started as a bass player in Sun Ra's Arkestra at a very young age, sits himself comfortably in the background as it seems piano and drums take most of the attention on the record. John Hicks' piano playing immediately recalls McCoy Tyner's, while Victor Jones and Neil Clark tap out rather complex beats that help to build the central framework of the seven solid tracks. Now Is the Time is Blake's first record as a bandleader, and it proves he has come a long way since playing in the bands of Dizzy Gillespie and other post-bop performers. Surprisingly, the record is quite traditional in its style, covering "On the Spot" and plotting along through some familiar jazz territory. Perhaps a bit more experimentation would set the record aflame considering Pharoah Sanders' and Blake's worlds don't usually collide in such predictable space. Still, it's an incredibly joyous record that doesn't seem steeped in trying to bring about any great meaning. Though Now Is the Time may seem pedestrian, it simply illustrates Blake's ability to play all manner of music, ranging from traditional jazz to avant-garde to rock. To say that Blake never steps forward is an understatement, though. He rarely plays a simple walking bassline as he usually flecks them with slaps and skitters to make for exciting listening. "The Chief" and "Little Help Solo" see Blake riffing and improvising in some swung-out solos, but for the most part he's content to sit back and provide the structure for the others to create their magic.

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