1. The Eleventh Hour
2. Rio's Dream
3. Blue News
4. Dexter's Tune
5. Time to Kill
6. Of Things to Come
8. No Left Turn
Johnathan Blake - Drums
Jaleel Shaw - Alto sax (except tracks 3, 4, 8 and 10)
Mark Turner - Tenor sax (except track 5)
Kevin Hays - Piano, Fender Rhodes (except tracks 1, 5, 6 and 10)
Ben Street - Bass
Tom Harrell - Trumpet, flugelhorn (tracks 3, 5)
Gr‚goire Maret - Harmonica (tracks 1, 10)
Robert Glasper - Piano, Fender Rhodes (tracks 1, 5 and 10)
Tim Warfield - Tenor sax (track 8)
The name Johnathan Blake will be familiar to Tom Harrell fans as he is the regular drummer in the trumpeter's well-established quintet (as I write, the quintet is touring Europe to much acclaim).
This CD, the first under Blake's own name, features a quintet with various line-ups on six of the tracks and, to add variety (or confuse the reviewer!), a quartet on tracks 4 and 6 and a sextet on tracks 1 and 8. The tunes are likely to be new to most listeners: seven tracks are Blake originals, Harrell himself contributes Blue News, Glasper is the composer of Canvas, and Dexter's Tune is by Randy Newman. Whether or not the latter has any connection with Dexter Gordon can only be a matter of conjecture, since there are no sleeve-notes (just the now obligatory list of effusive thank-yous). It is a haunting tune, whatever its genesis.
There is some excellent music on this CD, but I cannot claim that for all tracks. The Eleventh Hour and Canvas both have mysterious introductory sound effects and the presence of the harmonica on these tracks (not one of my favourite instruments) is an unnecessary distraction. On No Left Turn, guest tenor saxist Warfield takes a free approach that fits uneasily with his front-line colleagues.
The quintet tracks are all top-class and contain some impressive solo work by Shaw, a powerful altoist; Turner, a muscular, Breckerish tenor; and inventive pianist Hays. Both Rio's Dream (Rio being Blake's wife) and Freefall demonstrate Blake's facility for creating simple, catchy themes.
Tom Harrell contributes some cool, floating runs on his own Blue News and the foot-tapping Time to Kill. Glasper, replacing Hays on the latter, also contributes a fine solo.
Blake himself, with bassist Street, propels the various line-ups with intense authority.