Initiation Reviewed in DownBeat Magazine

November 2014

This debut recording from young guitarist Michael Blum makes for good Blindfold Test fodder. He’s a low-volume flat-picker who finds the pretty notes and knows how to lay out for the good of the tune. Forgive your blindfolded subjects, therefore, if they think they hear early Kenny Burrell, Charlie Byrd, Jim Hall, Johnny Smith, Emily Remler or others hear and there.

Blum is an articulate player who executes with clarity. His ability to thoughtfully place chords and notes on slow pieces like Thad Jones’ classic “A Child Is Born” shows unusual maturity. But Blum is not just a balladeer.

Turn him loose on a bright swinger like the old r&b warhorse “Castle Rock,” and you might think you’re hearing Columbia-era George Benson without his working band. The guitarist’s rhythm on the bossa treatment of “When Sunny Gets Blue” is agile and fluid, while he strides confidently through “Yellow Alert”—full of tempo and rhythm shifts.

Blum’s rhythm section sets him off beautifully, and the rapport between guitar and Brad Smith’s piano is respectful and giving. Bassist Jim Stinnett provides the firm-but-malleable bottom, while drummer Dom Moio keeps the flame low but the heat ever-present.