The melodies Blue Cranes invent can be bright, lush, pretty and peaceful, or they can be pleading and mournful. Climactic brass passages cascade over urgent, rolling drums, and swell dynamically between lush climactic peaks and somber valleys. This is music that deals frankly with all the emotional spectra of life, and it would be at home scoring any work that does the same.
Since their formation in 2007, Blue Cranes have become a key player in the Portland, Oregon creative music/DIY scene and one of the most exciting groups to keep tabs on in the Northwest. They’ve developed a singular musical voice grounded in melody and explosive improvisations—marking off their unique microcosmic territory in “post-jazz/jazz-not jazz” circles. Although experimental and adventurous, they in general don’t make use of dissonance the way that has become so ubiquitous in jazz-on most of their songs, every instrument is locked in harmony.
Blue Cranes is Reed Wallsmith on alto saxophone, Joe Cunningham on tenor saxophone, Rebecca Sanborn on keyboards, Keith Brush on double bass, and Ji Tanzer on drums. The band has released four full-length albums, the most recent of which, Swim, was highly acclaimed by critics, journalists, and lovers of music alike, representing a massive step into emotional depth that is ultimately “both cathartic and celebratory.” Released on Cuneiform Records in 2013, Swim was helped to the finish line by producer Nate Query, the bassist of The Decemberists, whose experience and presence at the recording and mixing sessions helped shape the sound of the album and give it a more cohesive identity. Guests show up on many songs to insert a reed or string part, and this gives the work a light variability while it stays firmly grounded in the identity of the music.