Bluiett – With Eyes Wide Open

With Eyes Wide Open
(Justin Time – 2000)
by John Barrett

When guitar replaces piano in the rhythm section, the mood is usually delicate – in this setting you don’t expect a baritone sax! While the calypso wafts through “Island Song”, Hamiet Bluiett barrels through, a honk with attitude. The guitar lick repeats, and the drums spread out: Nasheet Waits puts accents everywhere, and has fun doing it. With Don Pullen’s “Song Everlasting” is an air of calm. Ed Cherry strums slow, and Bluiett strolls like Coleman Hawkins gone deep. Sweet and smooth as you like it – plus a soprano-like squeal! Pullen also wrote “1529 Gunn Street”, a boppin’ blues: Cherry is wild, and check the razor-sharp bass of Jaribu Shahid. This sound comes from the good old days; “Monk & Wes” joins a slinky blues to quirky harmonies. This marriage is a success …and you will fall in love.

It’s a two-way conversation between Bluiett and Cherry; the others stay in the background but contribute a lot. Waits’ brushes are essential to “Song for Camille”, a ballad in the grandest style. (Cherry adds wispy figures, the kind you heard on tunes like “Yes, I’m Ready”.) Hamiet romps like a kid, hitting notes that a baritone can’t reach. “Mystery Tune” opens amid cymbals and toms; when the horn arrives it sounds like a tenor. This is late-night detective music, and Bluiett’s solo is flawless. “Deb” is another look at the islands; Cherry turns a light rhythm as the sax is gruffly romantic. We close on the title tune, where the tempo is fast and chops are plentiful. Waits scatters the beat, Cherry has his finest solo, and Bluiett makes his mark in a few perfect notes. For modern adventure and old-style musicianship, this is an hour well spent.