Saxaphonist Arthur Blythe bounced back from the worst album of his career with an exhilarating show at d.c. space Saturday night. On his new, synth-sodden album, "Put Sunshine in It," Blythe gets lost amid bland tunes and fuzak backing; on Saturday he was reunited with his regular band, which pushed him to some ferocious playing on some of his best compositions.
Blythe showed a remarkable ability to keep the tone of his alto sax full and sweet all the way through a long, mobile phrase. Kelvyn Bell, a young dreadlocked guitarist, laced bell-toned notes into lyrical phrases like a Jim Hall. Bob Stewart coaxed walking and sliding bass lines from his silver tuba as if he were Ron Carter. Bobby Battle lent a rhythm-and-blues kick to his unusually melodic drumming.
On "Faceless Woman," Blythe built his restless momentum into honking climaxes, only to slip assuredly back into the supple melody. On "The Lower Nile," Battle's melodic mallet work completed the four-part unison figures, and Blythe built the piece from a dramatic ballad into a roaring romp. Stewart's somber, two-voiced tuba solo introduced "Bush Baby," which then grew into a wild finish with Blythe's sax barking like a dog and Bell's guitar crying like a sea gull.