Personnel: Kenny Blake (tenor & alto saxophone), Peter Morley (vocals), Tony Janflone (guitars), Keith Stebler (piano, synthesizer), Joe McBride (piano, synthesizer, vocals), Max Leake (synthesizer), Ron Fudoli (bass), Steve Trettle (drums), George Jones (percussion).
Recorded at Audiomation, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania from September 15 to 22, 1990.
Kenny Blake had long enjoyed a strong reputation in his native Pittsburgh when Heads Up International gave him his first taste of national exposure with his debut CD, Interior Design -- which showed the tenorist/altoist to be a solid, captivating soul-jazz improvisor who effectively combines the immediacy and accessibility of R&B, funk and pop with the freedom, spontaneity and imagination of jazz. Influenced by Hank Crawford, Grover Washington, Jr. and Stanley Turrentine (among others) but definitely his own man, Blake has an earthy, down-home appeal that serves him well on both originals and surprising Latin-influenced interpretations of Paul Desmond's "Take Five" and Earle Hagen's "Harlem Nocturne." There are a few throwaway tracks, including a dull version of Steely Dan's "Babylon Sisters" that is a mindless pop cover rather than a genuine jazz interpretation. But overall, Design paints an impressive picture of Blake. ~ Alex Henderson