John Blum

Nine Rivers

The most well-informed aficionados of NYC’s jazz avant-garde speak of pianist John Blum with reverential respect, yet his discography is shockingly small for someone with a three-decade career: five albums as a leader, four as a sideman. Blum studied piano with seminal avant-gardist Cecil Taylor and ambidextrous master Borah Bergman, and it shows, yet his style at its most intense is more thickly textured than even theirs, and fully individualistic. Blum’s left hand recalls James P. Johnson: energy, power, rock-solid rhythm driver of the improvisation’s engine. And speaking of engines, some of Jimmy Yancey’s locomotive motion is there as well. Blum is actually a very melodic player, but the melodies are short and fast and may not be repeated more than once, so that’s not the quality that the average listener might take away from the experience. Nonetheless, in a 20-minute solo improvisation, he creates enough catchy motivic material that a dozen or more songs could be woven from it. Another of Blum’s teachers was Milford Graves; they share the sense of music as a journey to a higher understanding and a life-altering and life-enhancing practice. Blum looks more like an athlete than a musician, but then, the way he plays piano is athletic and requires a lot of muscle and stamina. The power of the concert performance on this album (performed collaboratively with video) is a revelation.

Track Listing:

1. First River         4:29

2. Second River   4:00

3. Third River       6:24

4. Fourth River    3:56

5. Fifth River         8:22

6. Sixth River        6:39

7. Seventh River  3:35

8. Eighth River     3:39

9. Ninth River       6:23


Credits: John Blum, piano

Photo by Peter Gannushkin

Recorded live at the Crosscurrent Festival, September 14, 2013

Press Quotes: “Explosive Pianism!”—Nate Chinen, New York Times

“John Blum possesses high control and a vast lexicon…truly a virtuoso.”—Martin Longley,  AllAboutJazz

"The antecedents are apparent: late Romanticism, the second Viennese School, Stride, Boogie Woogie, and, of course, Be-Bop and the voice of “Free” Jazz, but John has absorbed all these styles to find his own voice that defies  classification—Stuart Kremsky, IARJC Journal


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