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The Big Takeover Issue #94
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Michael Blake - Dance of the Mystic Bliss (P&M)

25 May 2023

Veteran saxophonist Michael Blake lost his mother Merle Blake in 2018, which took the wind out of his musical sails. Downtime during the pandemic, however, provided a few new gusts, and the result is Dance of the Mystic Bliss. Backed by guitarist Guilherme Monteiro, violinist Skye Steele, cellist Christopher Hoffman, bassist Michael Bates, and percussionists Mauro Refosco and Rogerio Boccato, Blake traverses all over the musical map here, incorporating bop, Brazil, tango, folk, and other influences into a distinctive blend all his own. Make no mistake – Blake and company aren’t hopping from style to style here, but taking elements from each and weaving them together into nearly every song. That suits the subject matter, as Merle was a singer, dancer, and avid gardener, and the songs Blake composed in her honor reflect those varied interests, from the jaunty “Merle the Pearl” and mystical “Love Finally Arrives” to the earthy “Sagra” and the gorgeous “Le Couer du Gardin.” Blake gets truly ambitious on “Weeds,” which, like the titular plant, grows prolifically and in several places at once. Both a loving tribute and an imaginative art statement, Dance of the Mystic Bliss puts Blake on a new plane of creative endeavor.