Tenor saxophonist Sarah Lee formed the band Blue Muse in 2013. The band is comprised of Jazz musicians whom Sarah met while attending Jacksonville University. Having released a live debut album, Blue Muse Live, the group has now released It Never Entered My Mind, a studio album of Jazz classics with half of the compositions by the great Wayne Shorter.
With Sarah are Jarrett Carter on guitar, Cody Wheaton on bass, Javian Francis on piano, John Medico and Jack Miller on drums, Steve Strawley on trumpet and flugelhorn, and Sarah Lee on tenor sax. This is a hard swinging band and their focus on harmonies are exemplary.
The Wayne Shorter tunes are the framework for the album, leading off with One by One, the cool West Coast Jazz sound with great horns and a brilliant piano solo from Javian Francis. Sweet n Sour appears in the middle of the track list. The great groove of the waltzy number is highlighted by Jarrett Carter’s guitar solo. Smoking horns accent the piece and the rhythm section is on top of it all. The album concludes with Shorter’s Ping Pong. The hard bop of Ping Pong makes a great end to the album but the song itself is deserving of rapt attention.
Within the Shorter framework appears Rodgers & Hart’s It Never Entered My Mind where harmonies take preeminence in the Jarrett Carter arrangement. Strawley’s muted trumpet calls forth the spirit of Miles Davis and all is right with the world. The sweet horn backing is lush and wonderful. Then Carter takes another cool guitar pass. This one deserves repeated play. And I did.
Horace Silver’s Nutville gets a great treatment from the band. The basslines are worth the price of admission and it kicks off with the hot drumming before Cody Wheaton takes off on that hopping bass. Everyone gets a good look in this hot track. Sarah Lee herself burns the tenor sax solo. So fine.
Joe Sample’s Freedom Sound is more of that West Coast cool. The harmonies again take the lead but I found myself paying special attention to Javian Francis’ piano backing. Of course, you’d have to on a Joe Sample tune. The piano and bass cooperation is a great listen.
It Never Entered My Mind is a swinging, fun album and Blue Muse is the band to make it their own through their arrangements and performance artistry. That’s what good Jazz does—here, make this song your own. Blue Muse does just that.
~Travis Rogers, Jr. is The Jazz Owl
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