Samuel Blaser – Pieces Of The Sky (CF 151)
Although from the same Swiss town (La Chaux-de-Fonds) as fellow trombonist Raymond Droz, Blaser is a lot more apt to be compared to Grachan Moncur III than Droz. Not full-on whack jazz, not pure hard bop, Blaser’s music resides somewhere in a wide, esoteric space in between the two. Having spent seven years at a Swiss music conservatory and several more cutting his teeth in NYC, Blaser now resides in Berlin. Last month Blaser introduced his forth album (and second album leading his quartet) Pieces Of Old Sky.
Retaining the trombone/guitar/bass/drums getup of the first quartet record 7th Heaven, but retaining only Thomas Morgan from the original lineup, Pieces Of Old Sky offers seven imaginative and unpredictable excursions into probing melodies and shifting moods. Blaser dives right into an extended piece at the beginning, the 17-minute suspended, contemplative “Pieces Of Old Sky.” Following that is my personal favorite track, “Red Hook,” which has no hook, but is a carnival ride through Dolphy-filtered Monk with a rock edge provided by Todd Neufeld’s amply amped guitar. “Choral I” and “Choral II” are brief tone ballads that reveal Blaser’s delicate side. Following more ruminative pieces “Mystical Circle” and “Mandala,” the Samuel Blaser Quartet goes a little raucous again for “Speed Game,” the freest track of the collection, and yet, contains some tightly integrated group statements.
Pieces Of Old Sky isn’t a record that’s likely to grab you on first listen, but there’s a method to Blaser’s madness that comes into sharper focus with each listen. The rapport he creates with this somewhat unusual combination of voices sets apart Samuel Blaser and his Quartet from other trombone-led small groups. His conception of sound is advanced, but rooted. That’s a pretty good way to go when traversing that nether land between hard bop and whack jazz.