Michael Blake, RJ Miller, Ryan Blotnick, Scott Colberg


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Original Recording Format: PCM 88.2kHz
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In his 2016 album of original compositions, American East coast guitarist Ryan Blotnick mines a bittersweet melodic/harmonic vein balanced by an African-influenced rhythmic elan.

Conceived as an antidote to the more aggressive forms of New York jazz, Kush offers freshly-minted waltzes, haunting ballads and more than a touch of Frisellian Americana, as well as a variety of grooves combining jazz and African feels. 

The album is Exclusively Available in Stereo DSD 512, DSD 256, DSD 128, DSD 64 from NativeDSD

New York saxophonist Michael Blake, a longtime Blotnick mentor and collaborator, is the perfect foil, contributing his own blend of lyricism, heat, and harmonic depth. Also integral to the record’s success is the buoyant yet laid-back rhythm team of Scott Colberg, bass (Calexico) and RJ Miller, drums. The album repays close attention for its subtle details while also rewarding listeners more attuned to moods than solos.

According to Blotnick, “RJ wanted the music to simmer and just keep expanding as opposed to my natural inclination to sort of tell a succinct story and then step back. Alice Coltrane’s music (e.g. Journey in Satchidananda) is a great example of this – it doesn’t register as a series of solos and I think it has a lot in common with West African and possibly Indian classical music that way. I think RJ’s playing on this record has a constant variation that is really hard to pull off the way he does it. The groove is always very much there even if he is playing all around it. I see it as an extension of what Paul Motian and Ed Blackwell have contributed to the music.”

Among the inspirations for Kush Blotnick cites guitarists Jacob Bro (“Lunenburg”), Ali Farka Touré (“May Day”) and Marc Ribot, Alice Coltrane (“Kush”, “May Day”), Billy Strayhorn (“Spring”), Wayne Shorter and Bill Evans (“Delaware”, “And Bright Snow”), Fela Kuti, and Niger’s most popular band Tal National (“DX7”).

Ryan was a member of New York’s Akoya Afrobeat and has performed in South African saxophonist Duke Mseleku’s groups. “Afrobeat is an amazing synthesis of West African and African-American musics. Playing with Akoya put me deep in the rhythm section where I was stuck with one rhythm line for the whole twenty-minute song. At first it felt like jail time but after seven or eight years I found some freedom there! I guess the main thing with African music is that every style has its own rhythmic fingerprint that goes way beyond anything you could put down on paper.

When the music is passed down from generation to generation there is a subtlety about how to place accents and how to feel certain rhythms that gets lost in music that is passed down in writing…I always try to simplify my music to the point where it is memoizable – I also think it speaks to the audience more directly this way.” Lee Konitz is another mentor figure: “He tried to get me to think about where the note starts – does it start in the fingers? Or the heart? Or the brain? When Lee plays he lives and dies with each note but it is also not forced – it is very heavy yet still light at heart.”

Ryan Blotnick, Guitar
Michael Blake, Saxophone
Scott Colberg, Bass
RJ Miller, Drums
Jonny Lam, Pedal Steel Guitar (on “Lunenburg”)


Please note that the below previews are loaded as 44.1 kHz / 16 bit.
May Day
And Bright Snow

Total time: 00:59:14

Additional information





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Original Recording Format

Recording Engineer

Todd Hutchisen


Recorded May 17-18, 2015 in analogue and 24/88.2 at Acadia Recording Company, Portland, Maine. Mixed in 24/88.2 by Tyler Wood at 2-od Studio. Mastered by Graemme Brown at Zen Mastering.

Release DateMay 24, 2024

Press reviews

Something Else Reviews

The mastery of space and tone within an improvisational setting is an art few have truly mastered; with Kush, Ryan Blotnick has shown himself to be among such rare masters.


Some albums are able to get as loud as they want and still occupy a very tranquil place.  It’s “May Day,” the third track on guitarist Ryan Blotnick’s newest, that signals Kush is one of those recordings. (…) Kush comes out with a strong opening statement, a pronouncement of how the spirit of the recording will manifest and how the abiding tone will carry.  It creates an interpretative context for everything that comes after.  The quieter, serene moments reinforce that thesis statement and those with volatility only come off as intriguing divergences from the album’s tranquil personality.  So even when the album ends with the boisterous “Spring,” the walking-away impression is that this is an album best suited for when peaceful music is a requirement.  That’s not an easy thing to accomplish and it shows the strength of this album, that it’s opening moments are able to resonate throughout the entirety of the recording.

New York City Jazz Record

Many of the cuts on guitarist Ryan Blotnick’s Kush create a free-floating exotic realm washing over the listener. On the surface, and as the name implies, Kush frowns on flash serving as a safe sanctuary from stress and strain. Blotnick’s ambient and harmonically astute approach combines with saxophonist Michael Blake’s anthropomorphic sound to glide and drift within heady environs created by bassist Scott Colberg and drummer RJ Miller. But all is not as it seems.

The session is a travelogue of sorts. Squeaks and squawks open the title track, which morphs into a leisurely voyage yet dissonance wonderfully haunts the band throughout. And despite the overall laid-back vibe there is tension and grounding. This is again largely due to Miller and Colberg’s sensitivity but also catchy melodies and ethnic rhythms, which, as on the extended party piece “DX7”, explode and turn the musings visceral. Blotnick’s touch is exquisitely delicate and he incorporates a variety of styles to outline boundaries.

A stop in “Lunenburg” portrays a serene setting with a sweet melody and elegant harmonics featuring pedal steel guitarist Steve Lam. However, Blake provides an undercurrent of saxual tension and pathos running through the town. “May Day” is painted in a rich Afroblue while “Churchy” has Blotnick and Blake deftly exploring the spirituality of their instruments. A soft bluesy layover in “Delaware” gives way to the more cerebral “And Bright Snow”, highlighting Blake’s tenor before “Spring” closes out the voyage as an ode to Strayhorn/Ellington exotica. Blotnick is clearly on to something here and his ambient approach rooted in jazz, blues, Afro/Latin and even psychedelia…works very well. –,


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