Here's a disc with a distinctive personality. A former Lounge Lizard who composed the soundtrack to Get Shorty and frequently works with bassist Ben Allison, the saxophonist and Montreal native Michael Blake has enlisted a Vancouver-based ensemble for his seventh outing as a leader. Some of these eight originals are ominous, others sly and simple as layered nursery rhymes; a few are winding and episodic.
Thus, you've got the appropriately named “Ghostline” (spooky until a staccato, piano-sax joust) and a title track that opens like a sonic tableau of a foggy waterfront, the music shrouded and damp, clangy and spectral. But you've also got the tinkly piano, modest sax, and gentle cymbal that makes the opening of “Temporary Constellation” endearingly juvenile and fragile, and the neatly monikered “Paddy Pie Face,” with a vamp that goes a tad OCD. In the middle is the remarkably pleasant “The Wash Away,” a lark with a catchy melody and minor-key undertow, set right between the languid, dolefully serpentine “So Long Seymour” and “Infirmary,” which seems more elegy than rumination until the trumpet briskly shakes the comatose.
This is keen writing in more ways than one, a collection of many moods and musical breadth, yet obviously coming from the same character.