Michael Blake in an Earshot Jazz Festival performance at Cornish Poncho Concert Hall Thursday night with Soren Kjaergaard keyboards. and Godske Lindenov on bass and Ben Perowsky, drums.

Michael Blake’s Nordic ensemble, Blake Tartare, and their tribute to Lucky Thompson, the peripatetic tenor and soprano genius who went from the bands of Don Redman, Billy Eckstine, and Count Basie, to a world without improvising, without playing publicly, after he abandoned playing in the 1970s. It’s a fitting locale for Blake’s tribute, given Thompson’s final days here in Seattle and his death in 2005 after a bout with Alzheimer’s.

Blake Tartare will certainly indulge Thompson’s lyrical side, but they’ve also got a broader view of the tradition, one where the avant-garde and tradition aren’t separate kingdoms; it’s instructive in this light to herald Thompson’s soprano playing, which was more Steve Lacy and John Coltrane, not completely avant but certainly tinged with plenty of post-bop thought patterns even when the horn was barely being dusted off. Blake has a similar ear, a likeminded sense of the tradition, and when it came time to record Thompson’s tunes, Blake added cello and bass clarinet and more, scaling some Thompsonian bop staircases and adding color and depth along the way. Paired with Horvitz as a double-bill, Blake’s Thomson reveries touched that classic nerve center in the annals of experiencing improvisation: mutual discovery simultaneously with the audience.

Click here for the complete schedule for the rest of the upcoming shows at the 2010 Earshot Jazz Festival

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