Reviewed by Jay Trachtenberg, Fri., Aug. 1, 2003
BlazeAural Karate (Butter Vat) Jazz is forever misconceived as unapproachable, far removed from mainstream popular music. Yet jazz has always kept its ear to the street, having already achieved a goodly amount of equity in hip-hop, electronica, and DJ culture, often with surprising results. For drummer Brannen Temple and his increasingly confident local jazz ensemble Blaze, the leap between genres is an easy one. By now, their fresh sound is well on the funky side of the spectrum, and with the addition of NickNack on turntables and various sonic effects, their third album is a blast. While Temple, long one of Austin's best drummers, keeps things firmly in the pocket, trumpeter Ephraim Owens and saxist Michael Malone man the frontline with some terrific playing, soulful and deeply satisfying. They, along with bassist Marc Miller, provide the basic ingredients upon which the intertwining effects shine like brass. Not every tune employs electronic gadgetry; two effective cross-cultural collaborations find the earthy sounds of tabla on "Sultan Williams" and sweet pedal steel guitar on the ballad "Septeletwan," both instruments dancing intimately with Owens and Malone. Likewise, former pianist Steven Snyder augments the relaxed, late-night ambience of "The Invisible." A fixture on the local jazz scene, Blaze has evolved remarkably over the course of three releases. With Aural Karate, they've taken a giant step forward with a sound as hip as now.
Blaze plays Threadgill's World HQ on Friday, Aug. 1, at 8pm.