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Over the holidays I had the opportunity to catch Seamus Blake at The Cellar in Vancouver, B.C.
The Cellar is a cozy place (seating about 85) that during this 14:00pm matinee was just waking up and a bit chilly. The Manager made a little speech before the show about cell phones and noise, which in a way was nice but sure dampened the jazz club feel for me.
Seamus warmed up in the bathroom trying out several different reeds and not pleased with any of them took the best of the lot for the first set. Some notes about his setup and sound:
1) Selmer MKVI with HR mouthpiece. No risers on the palm keys. A pesky, sticking G# was bothering him all day but I did notice that he had several non-water beverages throughout the set. He used the old $$ method to help during a piano solo...
2) Seamus' sound is hard and woody. It seems like he is using a very hard reed and open mpc. because you can see a lot of effort being put into generating his sound. His altissimo technique is outstanding as is his total control of the instrument. WOW!
He started playing Jitterbug Waltz and didn't like the register of the low notes in the key they played it in, so the very next phrase he jump way up an octave to I think B4 that seemed to be like childs play to him...
Song selection was varied but lacked blues (maybe Canadians don't like blues?) (oh god I can hear the fallout now) (retraction).
There is something for everyone in Seamus's playing. He will play one line like a songstress, the next like a harpsicordist. He throws in song quotes (only one Xmas one this set) and plays off the rhythms kicked around by other band members.
A few things I noticed (these are by no means criticisms as I really enjoyed the set and have nothing but respect for this artist). The band didn't smile or seem to be having a good time except for the drummer who was like a kid in a candy store. Once again the lack of blues strikes me curious. Nice to see a pro playing HR mouthpiece - maybe next a Buescher or Conn? (yeah baby). Seamus doesn't keep his fingers close to the keys - I think making it look easy is part of the art, Seamus makes it look like he is working his ass off.
Great band, great saxophone, great experience. Check him out if he is near.
 

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Hi Ptrick, I enjoyed your review--a couple of notes about the cellar. It is considered Vancouver's premier jazz venue. If you click a beer glass someone will glare at you. The musician's that play there are kings and get the outmost respect, part of that is quiet. Canadian's love blues, but the Cellar is a place that musically pushes the boundries so you are not going to hear a whole lot of blues being played. Seamus is the man!
 

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not much to add ,, saw Seamus a coupla years ago with John Scofield
in Wash D.C. needless to say a great show; they had Bill Stewart on
drums also .. just a great gigs .

Seamus is a great player coming out of people like Joe Henderson
Rollins, & Lovano; hard swinging, & witty with that abilty to transmit what
he's thinking/hearing immediately thru his instrument.
 

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Wow!

Well, I've been actually on a Workshop 1 week long with Seamus Blake and other great Jazz Musicians where I live, in Barcelona (Begues), Spain. Seamus is really a cool musician! He likes specially to play music, no matter what stuff and on what instrument. You could find him each afternoon playin' blues and rock songs with other students or meetin' him by night on those crazy techno/latin/salsa parties, playin' his sax or keyboards or drums (man, has he a good tempo!)...
But what I like best of him is his way of playin'. He has a powerful sound, but uses also dynamics on his playin'. Impressing overtones, impressing low tones, his register is wide and he plays always with the heart. On his playin' you can find tradition but you can also find innovation and, INSPIRATION.
Seamus is real good cat! And as a person, is somebody who you can talk to, he is very friendly and accesible.
Really a surprise for me. Don't miss his recordings on "Fresh Sound New Talent" with Jorge Rossy, Rosenwinkel, etc...
 
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