Barcelona native Dave Juarez has released Round Red Light on Posi-Tone Records. Guitarist Juarez features extraordinary tenor saxophonist Seamus Blake, prodigious John Escreet on piano, Lauren Falls on Bass and Bastian Weinhold on drums.

In this day and age we are seeing far more EPKs sent out to reviewers and promoters rather than the traditional “hard copy” cd promo packages. The EPK (Electronic Press Kit) is an ingenious bi-product of our “I need it yesterday” society. On more than one occasion I have found myself beginning to review the contents of a recording only to be duped by my iTunes playlist. Today, I was listening to the opening cut of Round Red Light, completely enjoying Juarez’s group and particularly Seamus Blake’s playing. The second cut sounded markedly different and seemed a cover of Dexter Gordon’s Cheesecake. Having a keen sense of the obvious, I quickly realized this WAS Dexter on my shuffle play, not the intended second cut. Unfortunately, this continued to happen after every cut on Round Red Light. Seems it’s a sign of the times and time to change my preferences on iTunes.

Hard copies and EPKs not withstanding, the opening track Montpellier View maintains an American folk quality in the melodic introduction. This is quick to change as Seamus Blake and his identifiable tenor sound begin to solo. Seamus plays in rhythmic bursts and occasionally into his seemingly effortless altissimo. Guitarist Juarez solos in a generous second position before the group states the head one last time.

Round Red Light embarks on its musical journey with a lovely solo guitar intro by bandleader Dave Juarez. Blake takes the melody in unison with Juarez on guitar. Juarez’ guitar melody is like a spice, only joining the tenor for flavor here and there in between chord structures. Blake’s tone is full and clear, neither bright nor dark. The vibe of this tune reminds me of Coltrane’s Naima or perhaps Central Park West. It is quite appealing.

Lonely Brooklyn is an up-tempo yet somehow almost sad Latin tune initially featuring pianist John Escreet. It’s difficult to hear a tune in this setting, featuring piano and not make comparisons to Chick Corea. Any comparison that can be made to Chick’s groups and their various incarnations is purely deserved flattery. When Seamus Blake begins to solo the group is clearly headed in a different direction. Again the melody features unisons between guitar, tenor and also piano.

The soft and pensive The Echo of Your Smile is a likeable melody played in unison by Blake and Juarez. This time bassist Lauren Falls solos first, followed by a bit of musical meandering. The ambiguity that follows the bass solo gradually leads the listener into the guitar solo. The understated guitar solo almost leaves more room for the interplay from Falls, Escreet and Bastian Weinhold on drums. Seamus and Juarez bring us back with the unison melody amidst Falls soloing on bass and Escreet cascading downward on the ivory keys. Somehow it all seems to work quite well.

Belleza Anónima begins with Seamus Blake in the upper register of the tenor sans vibrato. The vibe here is a bit reminiscent of the old ECM recordings featuring Jan Garbarek. Whether by coincidence or design it is a very desirable sound and the tune a great vehicle for Blake’s playing in this style. At about 3:30 into Belleza Anónima Seamus definitively displays why he is one of the premier tenor saxophonists of today. The ensemble finishes big – or seemingly so, with a huge cadence and no resolution. Way to leave us hanging guys!

The upbeat and swinging Serotonina wonderfully gives the group a chance to show their chops and stretch out. Juarez solos first, followed by a complex and musical escapade from Escreet on piano. Tenor bass and drums follow as Seamus Blake begins his own excursion, eventually joined by the entire ensemble. By the title, one has to wonder if there is a mentally unbalanced girl out there named “Nina.” There is however, nothing unstable about this groups playing.

Among the final compositions is the ballad La Noche Oscura Del Alma, and Luna De Barcelona, which highlights an angry yet well-done solo from Seamus Blake, punctuated by Weinhold’s cymbals.

The final cut RNP seems another ballad beginning with the duo of Dave Juarez on guitar and Seamus Blake on tenor. It quickly and deceptively turns into a frantic 6/8 (or is it 12/8?) groove which enables the group to collectively interact and experiment as not heard previously on Round Red Light.

Dave Juarez’s Round Red Light is an easy listen for any lovers of jazz and saxophone. Seamus Blake is among the top tenor saxophonists of modern day. He continuously allows himself to be surrounded by only the best jazz musicians such as Juarez, Escreet, Falls and Weinhold.

You can get your own copy of Round Red Light starting on April 19, 2011. Visit Posi-Tone Records for more info.

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