Sarah Lee is a tenor saxophone player with an interesting story–she was in IT for 20 years and then decided to follow her dreams. We see a lot of these stories on the contemporary jazz scene, people who might have had the spark of a career when they were younger and then things happens and lives are lived and then one day that spark returns. In many ways, this is some of the best jazz you’ll hear, made by people who have spent some time on the planet and have a few more things to say than they did when they were young. That’s why Sarah Lee came up with Blue Muse, a collection of eight jazz musicians including herself from her days at Jacksonville University.
It Never Entered My Mind is the second album from Blue Muse–the debut was Blue Muse Live–and it’s a fairly straightforward concept. This is a swinging jazz band, one imbued with cool inspired by Wayne Shorter and the Jazz Messengers. Indeed, half of this album’s six tracks are deep explorations of Shorter compositions including “One By One,” “Sweet n Sour” and “Ping Pong,” with the remaining classics maintaining that sense of dynamics, that feeling that this is a much larger ensemble that it is.
Much of that is due to Sarah Lee’s wisdom as a sax player, and the power she can create with horn player Steve Strawley so that they feel like a real section, which they are. But what I enjoy the most about Blue Muse is they way these performers float perfectly in between those two vibes, the bigger-than-you-think and the intimate-if-you-want-it. This is such a nicely balanced sound, intricate and powerful, that is in many ways a perfect match for these Falcon Acoustics LS3/5as MoFi Edition monitors I have in.
This is becoming more noticeable as I review gear that possesses a distinctive and satisfying sound. Alliances are made between gear and music, and the small but mighty LS3/5as loved playing jazz for me. Not big band jazz, not so much trios and quartets, but the in-between stuff, the stuff that pushes the excitement forward, into your lap, just like you were at the club and experiencing it twenty feet in front of you.
Sure, the LS3/5as are the biggest surprise of the summer so far, but I might not have noticed if this Blue Muse album hadn’t been so smooth and sweet and fun to play on them.