Blue Cranes: Vivid, Voluptuous, Vital

Saw the Blue Cranes last night. The Portland, Oregon quintet is bouncing around the country right now, and they just slid out of New England and hit NYC. Using a two-reed front line to essay all sorts of provocative tunes, the fascinating jazzstrumental band stresses melody and mood just as much as they do improv and solos. That’s refreshing. On Observatories they balance gorgeous themes with experimental extrapolations. Some pieces sound like forlorn Ornette Coleman ballads; some sound like muscular Philip Glass explosions. Lots of their stuff is cinematic; I can see “These Are My People” working well behind a bravura scene in a bull ring.

At Barbes last night, waxing vivid at every turn, Reed Wallsmith and company tilted toward the high water marks made by such bands as Curlew and the Muffins. And they showed their scope, covering Wayne Horvitz and Blonde Redhead, too. It’s time they started getting the kind dap reserved for Marco Benevento and associates, or maybe gigging with outfits like the Low Anthem. They’d not only fit right in, they’d add to the bill. Their current tour is being done by train, so don’t forget to ask them how their travel has been going. And recommend a righteous place in New Orleans for them to eat on the cheap.

NYC’ers can see ’em tonight at Littlefield, on a bill with the Honey Ear Trio and Ben Perowsky’s Moodswing Orchestra.

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