John Carroll Kirby shares a name with innovative swing-era bassist and chamber-jazz sextet leader John Kirby (1908-1952), though there’s no relation—or is there? The later Kirby studied jazz orchestration and composition with eminent bassist John Clayton, and though he’d shift toward piano and synths and an exploratory brand of instrumental electro-pop, the lessons stuck, evident in Kirby’s gift for mood and atmosphere, tonal balance and hypnotic rhythm. He’s cited Quincy Jones as a role model, and that scans: The sound of Blowout, and of Kirby’s body of work in general, is that of someone playing multiple roles with a producer’s ear, taking strong material to the next level. Quincy’s late-’60s/early-’70s albums for A&M—funky, exuberant, appealingly slick—are certainly a point of reference. You hear it right away on “Oropendola,” the opening track on Blowout, which follows up the previous year’s Dance Ancestral. The album was inspired by a Costa Rican sojourn, where Kirby filmed an episode of his video series Kirby’s Gold. Airy flute melodies, fat synth bass, bright harmonic colors, and solid grooves prevail on what might be his most infectious release to date.

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