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2 March 2010

Hamiet Bluiett - 'Endangered Species' (India Navigation)

Hamiet Bluiett is a pretty excellent baritone saxophonist, but we'll really hear his 'extended technique' on our next entry. This is to showcase his compositional skills, and his ability to lead a band. Now I almost wrote "smokin' hot band" because I'm prone to jazzbo cliches but that's actually a very terrible descriptor for this record - even given my usual gutter standards for music journalism. This isn't really one for fire, and it's oblique enough to avoid mourning bluesy clichés as well. The opening track is called 'Between the Rain Drops' so that should give you some idea; it lets space build, with balafon (you know, that frame thing Hamid Drake plays) accentuating the drumset but not overdoing it. Olu Dara's on trumpet here and I might even say he steals the show, at least on side one. Though there are fallbacks into traditional solos, etc., we do have a lot of thoughtful, Braxtonesque harmonies and the tendency to gaze into the structural elements of jazz composition instead of the emotional once. But then you flip it over, and get 'The Other Side of the World' and 'Ayana Nneke' which stick very closely to folk forms, and they do it nicely. I remembered it's this side that particularly struck home with me when I first heard this, because this was at a time when I was turning away from the whole super aggro loft-style ESP blowout and looking for something lyrical in avant-garde jazz. New York in the late 70's is probably, if anything, an understudied field. I dig baritone sax as well because it just sounds so different, in terms of its hue/palette, than what we're used to. This is a great one for when the classics just aren't doing it; a change-up, but one with a pretty killer vision.

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