Friday, September 14, 2012

Dan Block Duality Miles High 2012

A critic can not possible hear everyone. One of the most enjoyable facets of my work is perhaps taking a name but not work I am familiar with and then trying to go deeper.

Dan Block seems to take the same path with the tunes on Duality. With the exception of perhaps one track Duality is just that, a duets album. As a saxophonist Block is a musical chameleon both as a virtuoso instrumentalist and producer. There is a delightful opening ended organic pulse where beautiful melodies are allowed to shine and on the occasion where a more familiar tune under goes a reharmonization the end result is a wonderful display of harmonic variety couples with a keen sense of melody and lyrical purpose. In other words Block, unlike some of his contemporaries has the gift to change it up without mangling a melody beyond recognition yet there is a grand spatial quality to this recording that enhances the intimacy of each tune.

On this gem we have guests artists including but not limited to pianist Ted Rosenthal, vocalist Catherine Russell and vibraphonist Mark Sherman. Opening this release we find Block and Ted Rosenthall doing their own thing on the Jerome Kern classic "Long Ago and Far Away." Rosenthall is simply exquisite on this number while Dan Block adds what he calls his own addition to the house that Kern built. A nice deceptively subtle swing punctuated by the genius of Rosenthall and the lyrical adventurous playing of Block. "If You Could See Me Now" is highlighted buy the spot on phrasing of vocalist Catherine Russell with Block's soulful tenor offering an intriguing harmonic counterpoint. Block works the intervals of this tune to perfection and the reharm offered here is slightly more post modern than the traditional bebop ballad most are familiar with. Two voices coming together as one make "If You Could See Me Now" one of the standout tunes which says something. One could look long and hard to find minor flaws and this release is wiped clean. "Out Of Touch" with Dan Block and Matt Munisteri highlights the virtuoso talent of Block while the eclectic flavor of Munisteri on national steel guitar comes straight from the 1930's. Another high point to the release is perfect pacing within shifting genres not to mention occasionally taking to walking the harmonic tightrope without a net. "In The Dark" has the amazing vibraphonist Mark Sherman join Block for a sonic exploratory with shifting meter creating a slight dynamic tension and air of mystery to one of the nearly lost works of piano legend Bix Beiderbecke.

On this particular format Dan Block could have taken a far easier route. Instead, this is a well thought out and perfectly placed release that is incredibly entertaining. Solid arranging makes the more eclectic approach to these tunes sing. One would have to border on the hyper critical to find fault with a release that will simple in instrumentation is packed with flavor!

Tracks: Long Ago And Far Away; I'm Bringing A Red Red Rose; Chorino For Dennis; If You Could See Me Now; Out Of Touch; Pitter Panther Patter; Lyric Waltz; In The Dark; My Own Morning; The Jazz Samba; I'll Build A Stairway To Paradise.

Personnel: Dan Block: tenor saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet, baritone saxophone; Ted Rosenthall: piano; Lee Hudson: bass; Paul Meyers: guitar; Catherine Russell: vocals; Matt Munisteri: national steel guitar; Scott Robinson: tenor & baritone saxophones, clarinets; Rosanno Sportiello: piano; Mark Sherman: vibraphone; Saul Rubin: guitar; Tim Horner: drums.