Program music that’s more music than program, New York-based Canadian saxophonist Michael Blake’s eight-part suite Fulfillment is a reimagining of 1914’s Komagata Maru incident, when Canada’s exclusionary racial laws wouldn’t allow a ship carrying several hundred Sikh immigrants to land in Vancouver.
Blake’s great-great-uncle was a Member of Parliament who called for “a white country and a white British Columbia” at that time. Sentiments such as those are voiced by Emma Postl on “The Ballad of Gurtid Singh,” where they share space with Ron Samworth’s homey guitar picking, discursive processing from Chris Gestrin’s MicroMoog synthesizer and spatters of pointed emotionalism from Blake’s soprano saxophone.  
These lyrics are among the suite’s few programmatic links. Like an ambiguously titled abstract painting, meaning must be intuited from the compositions’ themes and improvisations: Fulfillment is art not agitprop. At the same time, Blake’s sonic blending is so skilful that the six players provide the textures that would be expected from twice that number of musicians.
On “Arrivals,” for instance, Peggy Lee’s dolorous cello pulsations, thickened by double-bass bumps from André Lachance, are contrasted with Blake’s elated skywards-shooting theme, similarly intensified with writhing electronics. The counterpoint on “Departures” results from cello stops facing harmonized horn lines. Eventually, an almost recognizable swing piano exposition gives way to drum beats, which march the narrative to completion. Both tunes include vibrating sarod-like intimations from Samworth’s banjo.
The suite shifts gears with “The Soldier and the Saint,” which ends the program with a minor blues more reminiscent of John Coltrane's work than anything specifically South Asian. The piece does, however, offer a showcase for J.P. Carter’s plunger-trumpet licks.
Like legislation that finally recognized Canada’s multicultural character, Blake’s composition blends rock-like fuzzy guitar licks, semi-classical string swells and purposeful, jazz-oriented horn lines into a finale that is unique and affirmative.