Ryan Blotnick – Kush
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East-coast guitarist Ryan Blotnick mines a lovely melodic vein of nostalgia balanced by an African-influenced rhythmic elan in his eclectic new album of original compositions. Conceived as an antidote to the more aggressive forms of New York jazz, Kush offers freshly-minted waltzes, haunting ballads and more than a touch of Frisellian Americana, as well as a variety of grooves combining jazz and African feels. New York saxophonist Michael Blake (who has three records on Songlines) is the guitarist’s perfect foil, contributing his own blend of lyricism, grit and harmonic depth. Also integral to the record’s success is the buoyant yet laid-back rhythm team of Scott Colberg, bass (Calexico) and RJ Miller, drums. The album repays close attention for its subtle details while also rewarding listeners more attuned to moods than solos. Blotnick has two acclaimed releases on Songlines (Music Needs You and Everthing Forgets) and a self-released solo guitar record praised by the New York Times for its intensely thoughtful design. After 10 years in New York he moved back to Maine in 2015 to give himself more space to deepen his connection to his playing, and began performing a weekly gig in a trio with RJ Miller. They looked for ways to combine the aesthetics of ambient music (sampled loops and hypnotic grooves) and the more direct language of jazz. With the addition of longtime Blotnick collaborator and mentor Michael Blake the music took on greater heat and dynamism without downplaying its introspective roots. Among the inspirations for Kush Blotnick cites guitarists Jacob Bro, Marc Ribot and Ali Farka Toure, Alice Coltrane and Billy Strayhorn, Fela Kuti, and Niger’s most popular band Tal National. For a number of years Blotnick has performed in New York’s Akoya Afrobeat and with South African saxophonist Duke Mseleku.
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