CD reviews

CD REVIEW: Dan Block – Block Party: A St Louis Connection

Dan Block – Block Party: A St Louis Connection
(Miles High Records. CD review by Frank Griffith)

Block Party: A St Louis Connection, the latest CD from NYC saxist/ clarinettist Dan Block, joins him up with younger brother, Rob, a St Louis-based guitarist, from a city that boasts a rich jazz saxophone legacy including the likes of David Sanborn, Oliver Lake, Marty Ehrlich and Greg Osby. After listening to this CD one will undoubtedly agree that the Brothers Block are also key contributors to the rich jazz offerings that this fabled Midwestern metropolis has spawned.

Dan’s robust and fiery tenor is nicely offset by his rich and creamy-toned alto bearing the influences of “Rabbit” (Johnny Hodges) and “The King” (Benny Carter). An equally able and adept clarinettist, Block’s command of the instrument is coupled with a wonderful tone and harmonic imagination. A cross between Tony Scott, Buddy DeFranco and Art Pepper (if such a concept could exist) illustrates yet another side of this multi-talented artist.

Brother Rob is a technically fluent guitarist with phrases that breathe, resulting in logically shaped solos. He “owns” his instrument as it does not “play” him like so many other “chops-heavy” players seemingly getting paid “by the note”. Fellow St Louian-bred bassist, Neil Caine, is aboard along with NYC players, Tadataka Unno, piano, and Aaron Kimmel, drums, all of whom are organically plugged into the proceedings with their distinctive solo excursions and solid support.

The musical entrees are richly varied, both historically and stylistically. Lesser known but unique and brilliant gems of songdom from the likes of Ray Noble, Monk, Gigi Gryce, Ferde Grofe, Harold Arlen and Dan’s own Option Click (his response to the whims of today’s technology) make for a remarkable trove of material.

Meet me in St Louis indeed! I would certainly come a long way from St Louis to hear the Block Brothers anywhere that they should be playing. A gem of a recording that celebrates this city’s culture and brotherhood.

Frank Griffith is an American saxophonist and arranger currently resident in Liverpool. He will be back in London on 6 October for a Bacharach evening with Lee Gibson at Crazy Coqs.

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