Aaron Blakey
4 stars
Reviewed by Barry O’Sullivan

Pianist/composer Aaron Blakey’s latest offering is a collection of original compositions, weaving in memories from New Zealand and Australia with his time spent in Japan, in a session that is a travelogue of sorts within the jazz universe. It is hard to resist tapping one’s feet along to the swinging brass, drums, bass, and piano that these guys so expertly deliver. Infused and bursting with a multitude of melodies left, right, and centre, Blakey assembles a tight quintet of core players with whom he has frequently played in live situations, taking the listener through a journey of nine original compositions of his, which hew closely to the post-bop canon. Saxophonists Michael Avgenicos’s (tenor) and Andrew Crago’s (alto) solos are consistently sharp and engaging. Their tones adopted for the most part are not blustery but sunshiny and pleasant with their two-horn interplay creating some dazzling moments. Bassist Tom Botting and drummer Tim Firth are calmly efficient and expertly professional, doing what needs to be done. Blakey is an extremely talented pianist who solos and comps with assurance. The addition of the National Jazz Award-winning guitarist Peter Koopman on four of the tracks is a bonus for delivering some beautifully crafted solos on Taupo Bay, Little Person, and Ebisu, the stand-out favourites. Revealing his strong musicianship everywhere, Blakey has released an album with strong themes and multicoloured hues that will make you want to revisit it often.