Arthur Blythe: Break Tune


Break Tune


Arthur Blythe (alto sax)


Da-Da (Columbia 40237)


Arthur Blythe (alto sax), Olu Dara (cornet), Kelvyn Bell (guitar), Bob Stewart (tuba), Bobby Battle (drums), Geri Allen (synthesizer).

Composed by Arthur Blythe


Recorded: New York, 1986


Rating: 81/100 (learn more)

Imagine a time when major record labels recorded jazz that didn't conform to archaic conceptions of what jazz should be. Such a time existed as recently as 1986, when this music was recorded. Da-Da wasn't one of Arthur Blythe's best efforts for Columbia. That list is topped by Lenox Avenue Breakdown, his first album for CBS, recorded in 1979. Da-Da isn’t nearly so uncompromising. Indeed, Geri Allen's synthesizer solo on "Break Tune" hints at a desire to pop-ify Blythe's music. On Da-Da, Blythe or Columbia or both seemed somewhat more concerned about sales numbers.

Still, Blythe's playing and group concept was inimitable, and thus mostly carries the day. "Break Tune" is played by Blythe's electric band (a distinct entity from his acoustic band, which also performs on the album). Tubaist Bob Stewart holds down the basslines, with a rhythm section that includes a young Ms. Allen, drummer Bobby Battle and guitarist Kelvyn Bell. Trumpeter Olu Dara shares the front line with Blythe. A riff-based cross between Ornette Coleman's harmolodics and New Orleans funk—with just a hint of Afrobeat thrown in—the tune presents Blythe in good form, spraying his rapid-fire, freebop filigree in all directions at once. Bell plays a fine Blood Ulmer-ish guitar, and Dara's solo makes one wish he had been more active as a cornetist.

The less said about Allen's contribution, the better; she mostly gets in the way, and her solo is tastelessly extroverted. The recording quality is murky, which also damages the effect. Yet there remains an enduring freshness to Blythe's approach that makes this appealing, for all its faults.

Reviewer: Chris Kelsey

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