Arthur Blythe: Crescent




Arthur Blythe (alto sax)


Da-Da (Columbia 40237)

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Arthur Blythe (alto sax), Olu Dara (cornet), John Hicks (piano), Cecil McBee (bass), Bobby Battle (drums).

Composed by John Coltrane


Recorded: New York, 1986


Rating: 90/100 (learn more)

Arthur Blythe's last few Columbia albums suffer from an excess of eclecticism, as if he were scuffling to find a formula that would justify his continued association with what was then (the late 1980s) the preeminent jazz label. The problem could arise from one album to the next, or in the case of Da-Da, on a single disc. Part of the album showcases Blythe's funky, "electric" side. The rest features his acoustic self, in the company of such swinging stalwarts as bassist Cecil McBee and pianist John Hicks. The album's split personality ends up compromising both conceptions, but it's the latter approach that really gets the short end of the stick. Blythe's treatment of John Coltrane's "Crescent" reveals an artist who best thrives in the company of a hard-swinging acoustic rhythm section. Blythe has perhaps the most distinctive alto sax style of his generation. His fluorescent tone and aggressively exact phrasing are inimitable. Whereas the funky tracks sound somewhat dated 20 years after the fact, the acoustic jazz approach has a timeless quality that frames his style magnificently. It doesn't hurt that he's accompanied by the distinguished Hicks and McBee, as well as the ebullient cornetist Olu Dara. Unfortunately, the track is painfully brief. Just as the soloists seem ready to really take flight, they're cut down, which is a shame. Better to have excised some of the electric tracks and devoted more time to music as superb as this.

Reviewer: Chris Kelsey

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