Sam Blakeslee And Wistful Thinking's Sophomore Recording BUSY BODY Out Now

Busy Body takes on an entirely fresh framework for this exploratory band.

By: Oct. 28, 2022
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Sam Blakeslee And Wistful Thinking's Sophomore Recording BUSY BODY Out Now

Busy Body, the sophomore album from steadfast New York-based composer and trombonist Sam Blakeslee and his synergetic ensemble Wistful Thinking, is out today. Following their 2021 debut The Long Middle, Blakeslee's intimate, pastoral first statement conceptualized and released mid-pandemic, Busy Body builds beyond the bandleader's chamber-jazz setting and finds asylum in a realm between fusion and electronica. Soaring through compositions wrought by electronic manipulations and ambient sonic landscapes, Busy Body takes on an entirely fresh framework for this exploratory band, yet Blakeslee's profound ability to resonate thoughts through sound remains eminent on this far-reaching statement.

Wistful Thinking, Blakeslee's drummer-less chamber jazz ensemble, features an ingenious cast of collaborators including Brandon Coleman on electric guitar, Chris Coles on alto saxophone and Matt Wiles on electric bass and moog synthesizer. Busy Body does, however, introduce an array of percussive elements, with special guests Jamey Haddad (percussion) and Dan Pugach (drums). Woodwind and composer phenomenon Brian Krock joins the crew on alto flute and bass clarinet for a couple of tunes, including the standout title track.

"Leading up to this point, I was writing a great deal for the big band medium. However, with no safe situations for big band performances in the near future, turning to electronic production gave me the timbral contrast that has always drawn me to composing for large ensembles. All of a sudden, I felt like I had an orchestra at my fingertips," Blakeslee shares, discussing the impetus behind his divergent discography, both pieces of which sprung forth over the course of the pandemic to "fill a void", as he describes. "Delving into the vast world of electronic production was a way to cope with the uncertainty of 2020."

While immersing himself into this new world and consequently taking the back seat as an instrumentalist, Blakeslee's reverence for psychedelic rock came to the surface. He cites classic albums of the genre with similar post-production aesthetics - Jimi Hendrix's Axis: Bold As Love as well as the output from The Beatles in the 1960s - as sources of his fascination. Tracks "Busy Body" and "Wistful Thinking", where master percussionist Haddad contributes an assembly of stunning sound layers, both capture that setting perfectly, while the second track "Hollandaise Sauce" featuring GRAMMY-nominated drummer and composer Pugach is an ode to the 16-bit video games and fusion sounds of the '90s.

Though at this point, Busy Body might present as a complete departure from the bandleader's melancholic debut, elements of wistfulness are quite literally dusted throughout; an eclectic introduction of tracks land the listener amid "Wistful Thinking", a crawling radius anchored by Blakeslee's horn met by a sweltering solo from Coles. The combination of back-to-back blows translate a mellow, forlorn sound into a gentle reminder that Blakeslee's compositional ethos is still rooted speculation, though he does not keep us there for long.

The frenetic "Klepto" ensues, entering the domain of prog-rock where a trombone choir meets metal band, thanks to producer and guitarist on the record Coleman who acquainted Blakeslee with the style. Shifting from a fast-changing tempo, Blakeslee's muted solo on the brief "Little Song Diary Part I" interlude warns of another forthcoming change. The pair of Little Song Diaries pad the ensemble's succinct reconnaissance of dreamlike, ambient landscapes in "What Was" and "Crushed Life," both soaked in lush contributions from Wiles on moog and layered with textured synth orchestration.

Sam Blakeslee scintillates across extensive musical territory on his sophomore outing, a consummate, 10-track deliverance of original and genre-bending material. A record fashioned by adventurous, contemporary compositions, Busy Body flies through the inner workings of a rich and experimental musical mind. Where Wistful Thinking might take us next remains ambiguous, but the question of when 'next' is, exactly, will surely strike listeners at the close of Busy Body, achieving just what this band's namesake evokes: a sense of longing.


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