Samuel Blaser: Routes

Tribute to Don Drummond combines jazz-type heads with solos from Soweto Kinch, Alex Wilson, Alan Weekes et al over stolid reggae rhythms


Berlin-based Swiss trombonist Samuel Blaser is generally thought of as a contemporary jazz player but he has wide-ranging musical interests. Along with jazz, fusion and blues he says medieval and baroque music fascinate him just as much as Stravinsky and new music.

He’s released over 30 albums since 2008 under his own name as well as featuring as a sideman on countless others. In 2019 he won the European Jazz Award and in 2021 came top in Downbeat’s Critics Poll for Rising Star Trombone.

Routes is inspired by the Jamaican trombonist Don Drummond, who died 54 years ago aged 35. Drummond was a founder member of The Skatalites, the band in which jazz transmuted into ska. While in many respects Routes is a homage to Drummond, it succeeds in retaining its own charm and individuality. The 10 tracks mix Drummond classics (Silver Dollar, Thoroughfare and Green Island) which have been rearranged by Blaser, pianist Alex Wilson and bassist Ira Coleman together with new reggae, ska and jazz-infused compositions by Blaser, Wilson and guest singer Carroll Thompson – the queen of lovers’ rock. Thompson sings on two of the tracks – Rainy Days and Beautiful Bed of Lies. There are also two dub versions by Lee “Scratch” Perry.

Blaser usually plays in a trio but here we have an octet plus an additional eight guest artists. His original idea was to record the album in a studio but owing to the onset of Covid-19 it was all done online by exchanging files between musicians and then compiling the contributions with Alex Wilson. The results are magnificent and sound just like a live performance. The outcome is an upbeat and exuberant album – you feel as if you’ve walked into a party every time you play it.

Silver Dollar; Rainy Days; Thoroughfare; Green Island; Chronicles; Beautiful Bed Of Lies; Lady Rawlinson; Rainy Days Dub; Green Island Dub; End Of The Beginning (54.42)
Blaser (tb); Michael Blake (ts); Soweto Kinch (as); Alex Wilson (p, org, mel); Alan Weekes (g); Ira Coleman (b); Dion Parson (d); Edwin Sanz (pc). Guests: Steve Turre, Glenn Ferris, John Fedchock, Johan Escalante (tb); Jennifer Wharton (btb); Heiri Känzig (b); Carroll Thompson, Lee “Scratch” Perry (v). Various locations, 2020, 2021 and 2022.
Enja Records