Michael Blake | Dance of the Mystic Bliss Review
by Darnell Jackson
Dance of the Mystic Bliss, the latest offering from the ever-enigmatic Michael Blake, is an excellent fusion of global music influences and adventurous jazz. Known for his continual deviation from typical jazz formulas, Blake once again challenges musical conventions with his new Chroma Nova group, which is Michael Blake on tenor and soprano saxophones and flute, Guilherme Monteiro on electric guitar, Skye Steele on violin, Christopher Hoffman on cello, Michael Bates on acoustic bass, and Mauro Refosco and Rogerio Boccato on percussion.
Dance of the Mystic Bliss, a tribute to Blake’s late mother, a dancer, singer, gardener, and cat lover, is a musical journey that traverses varied rhythmic terrains. Incorporating Brazilian folk influences into 10 original compositions, Blake and his group construct a phantasmagorical blend of post-bop jazz, Indian raga, avant-garde classical, and psych rock sounds.
The opening track, “Merle the Pearl,” commences the sonic journey with a feel incorporating Afro-Latin rhythms and expressive post-bop melodic figures. Monteiro’s cyclic guitar motif is augmented by Steele’s pizzicato work, providing the harmonic framework for the percussionist to create a deep groove. The melody is riff-based and very memorable. Blake’s tenor solo focuses on rhythm rather than intricate melodic lines. This is the theme of the ensuing tracks as the ensemble explores different musical territories, each marked by melodic sounds and rhythmic expertise.
“Little Demons” showcases a time signature that imparts a distinctive flow to the music, creating an intriguing syncopation that sets it apart from the more common time signatures found in jazz and other genres. The two percussionists again create an invigorating feel, making everything flow naturally. Blake’s tenor shines throughout his solo, and his use of Indian scales is particularly rewarding when combined with his be-bop language. Blake exhibits his strong melodicism and refined taste, manifesting in a kaleidoscope of captivating and intricate sounds and musical ideas.
The group’s tight cohesion and rhythm-oriented foundations amplify the richness of the musical journey, making this album an immersive experience. The ensemble’s instrumentation lends itself to Blake’s boundless creativity and genre-bending approach to jazz and global music.
Dance of the Mystic Bliss is a jubilant dance of genres that thrives on exploration and innovation. It’s an album that rewards repeated listening, each spin revealing another layer of depth to its intricate tapestry of sound. Blake’s latest is a must-listen for anyone yearning for a fresh, vibrant, and compelling journey through the possibilities of jazz and beyond.
Dance of the Mystic Bliss
Release Date: May 26, 2023
Label: P&M Records