First of many thank-yous to this exemplary artist, I think, would be Ms.Baum's name-check of Igor Stravinsky, a essential 20th century composer whose contrails have been getting a bit transparent of late. Of late, the guys who make a living for those who manufacture the record rack dividers (critics, yes...) have been trying to put the last 100 years in neat perspective, place Morton Feldman here, David Tudor there... but I suspect there may be some consternation among the scribes when Igor's turn arrives. Simple enough. Stravinsky never categorically landed anywhere, he never pledged allegiance to one school of thought and stuck to it. He wrote music. That was all there was to it. Wha? say some newcomers, the same dude what wrote "Pulcinella" also did "The Rite Of Spring"?! Which, I quote mine acquaintance, British composer Dirk Campbell, is completely unique in musical structure. Smart fellow. Both of them.
Well, I'm reviewing the Jamie Baum Septet's new CD here... and this is where the remainder of the thank-yous come in. There is a delicacy in the writing, a fey attention to details like the repeating broken piano phrase that pops up and down in "From Scratch/ Primordial Prelude" (tasty comping and dual piano/e-piano work a la IN A SILENT WAY throughout by George Colligan), the air of an idea we've heard elsewhere re-orchestrated to make it unfamiliar again ("South Rim"'s iridescent horn chart: a tip of the hat to Ralph Alessi's trumpet, Tom Varner's trombone like French horn, Doug Yates' bass clarinet), and any number of agile quotes from Mr. S (as he himself once put it, great composers steal! Mediocre ones borrow...) that dance the proceedings along. Ms. Baum herself is a marvel on the alto flute (about the same range as a soprano sax but not as nasal): some double-tracked harmonies in "Central Park" are good fun too.
The general feel of MOVING FORWARD is urban and searching; a good attitude given the small pockets of grace, mapped by Colligan's piano and so joyously found in "Bar Talk," a nod to the other Bela. Kudos also go to bassist Drew Gress, known to you perhaps from his involvement in Dave Douglas' SANCTUARY project of about a decade ago, and Jeff Hirshfield's wry percussing. Nice job all around, and f you'll excuse me I'm going to go hit the 'Repeat' button. I got those 'Rivington Street Blues' real bad.
by Kenneth Egbert