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 circles.
The members of the quintet--Reed Wallsmith on alto saxophone, Joe Cunningham on tenor saxophone, Rebecca Sanborn on keyboards, Jon Shaw on bass, and Ji Tanzer on drums--bring a unique array of experiences to their group-centered aesthetic, including work with AU, The Decemberists, Laura Veirs, Wayne Horvitz, Rebecca Gates, Laura Gibson, Ethan Rose, Pete Krebs, Black Prairie, and Portland Cello Project.
In June 2013, the band took an evolutionary step forward with the release of Swim, their fourth full-length album, on the Washington, D.C.-based Cuneiform Records. Swim is a departure from Blue Cranes' previous, and in some ways simpler, albums. Steered dutifully by producer Nate Query of The Decemberists, it is a window into the sometimes messy emotional space of a group struggling with and celebrating the ephemeralness of life. This work is the culmination of several between-album projects, including a 30-day crowd-sourced Amtrak train tour in 2011, and a seven day group composition retreat, supported in part by a grant from Portland's Regional Arts and Culture Council. However, the heart of Swim lies in indelibly profound life events--the passing away of two dear friends, a serious injury, two weddings, and the birth of a child--events at tragic and uplifting extremes, both cathartic and celebratory.