With last year’s intriguing release Magical Theatre, Adam Baldych offered a new perspective on modern jazz violin. The ‘theatre’ part of the title was apropos, as there was plenty of dramatic moments that would’ve made a glam rock album green with jealousy and an actor’s studio want it to accompany a performance.
With his latest release, Baldych brings a new crew (The Baltic Gang) to the table, and he shifts his music closer to the Scandinavian jazz subset. The drama is dialed back a bit, replaced with an atmospheric sensibility and an elegant lyricism.
Certainly affecting the transition is the addition of pianist Jacob Karlzon, a standard bearer of the New Piano Trio movement… a mix of traditional piano trio format, with the addition of rock tempos and tension, and the tasteful use of electronics and effects. The elegance mentioned just previously has got to be attributed, in part, to his presence. Karlzon’s recording history is ripe with examples of the E.S.T.-like blend of dramatic builds of melodic tension simultaneously awash in sheets of serenity.
On Imaginary Room, Baldych’s violin plays the perfect contast against Karlzon’s piano. Baldych’s violin is the fire, Karlzon’s piano, the embers.
Your album personnel: Adam Baldych (violin), Jacob Karlzon (piano), Lars Danielsson (bass, cello), Verneri Pohjola (trumpet), Morten Lund (drums), and guest: Nils Landgren (trombone).
But for all the changes from last album to current, the opening track of Imaginary Room gives more of the same old good stuff. Dramatic opening immediately builds tension, with Baldych’s violin parting the sea with beautiful sonorous lines before settling back in with pulsing groove set by bass and piano. Middle section has Baldych putting his virtuosity on display, formulating a torrential downpour of notes, spurred on by Lund’s steady drumwork.
And much like Magical Theatre, it’s the slower pieces that reveal themselves as the gems of the album. Baldych can say so much with so few notes, and while his frenetic solos are impressive, it’s when he chooses his notes with careful consideration that his power shines through. Tracks like “11.16,” with its mournful sway and “Zarathrusta” with its pacing-the-room affectations, these put the heart of this music on display.
Some tunes have a jaunty tempo, allowing for thoughtful riffs on the melody and incendiary solos shot across the bow. Tracks like “For Zbiggy” and “Cubism” have that cheerful mien, even as they kick dust up into the air and carry about.
Considering all the changes from last album to current, it’s impressive that Baldych advanced his own sound without losing the seeds of his original voice. I’m excited to see where this goes next.
Released on the ACT Music label.
Originally from Poland, now part of the NYC jazz scene.
Download a free album track at AllAboutJazz, courtesy of the artist and label.