Arthur Blythe, Focus

Dylan Hicks

By Dylan Hicks

on 04.22.11 in Reviews


Arthur Blythe

Over time my loyalties might return to one of Arthur Blythe's early Columbia albums, but for now this is the one I go to first. Blythe has always delighted in atypical instrumentation, and here he comes up with a configuration so perfect one wonders why it's not the nightclub standard: old friend Bob Stewart on tuba, Gust William Tsilis on the infrequently heard bass marimba, and Cecil Brooks III on drums. Stewart is a serious tuba player, and Tsilis is no mere atmosphere setter. Still, there's something inherently jolly about tubas and something inherently moody about marimbas, and the contrast is one of on Focus'many selling points.

Moody and playful, this is a career peak from a brilliant bandleader.

Another is Brooks, whose drumming holds it all together and then opens it all up. Still another is Blythe himself, expressive without ostentation on a set of blues and ballads, obscure Monk, abstruse funk, new originals and old originals shined up like new.