Dec 15 2013
In This Life is the breathtaking new release from the large ensemble led by flautist Jamie Baum. Inspired by her travels in South Asia and the music of vocalist Nusrat Fateh Ali Kahn, Baum assembles a stellar line-up to present compositions with expansive points of view, strong lyricism, and thrilling rides on the shoulders of textured percussion. This is one of those recordings that just launches itself into space and picks up speed as it goes.
The album opens with a solitary flute section, simply stated and without fanfare. It isn’t until later that it’s revealed to be a warning shot for the kaleidoscopic expressionism to follow. That flute solo opens “Nusrat,” which immediately dives into a fast-paced tune with brief solos etched in the thick foundation of percussion. Brad Shepik’s guitar solo stands out in particular, as it has him delivering a higher voltage than what’s heard on the intriguing releases under his own name.
“The Meeting (Tana Dery Na)” has a cadence not unlike a person advancing on tiptoes, hoping to remain undetected. Bassist Lober’s twisting motion around the roots of that cadence is particular nice, made more so in the way pianist Escreet shadows his motion, and then later Baum on flute. With the latter bit of interplay, it gets to where it’s difficult to identity who is shadowing who… is it Lober’s bass trailing stealthily behind or is it Baum’s flute that is leading the pursuit?
“Ants and Other Faithful Beings” is all groove, cool groove. The Afro-Brazilian rhythmic attack from Torres and Hirshfield on congas and drums sets the table for all the solos to come, and doesn’t let anybody leave the table, no matter how much they might try. Escreet’s piano section attempts, at times, to set a new course, but the rhythm section digs that groove deep and doesn’t relinquish it.
“In Another Life” is the first moment when the ensemble takes its foot off the gas pedal. A melancholy tune that features trumpet and piano. Flute is like the cooing of doves. Conversely, “Monkeys of Gokarna Forest” crackles with free flowing electricity, with Escreet’s piano providing the biggest charge.
“While We Are Here (for Elise NeeDell Babcock)” proceeds at a healthy clip, moving at a quick but patient speed that allows the music to breathe. Yates’ bass clarinet shades the melody with dark colors, adds warmth to the harmony.
“Richie’s Lament (for Richie Beirach)” slows things back down, with the dreamy harmonizing between ElSaffar and Komer on trumpet and French horn providing the greatest rewards, though only barely in comparison to the twists and twirls of Yates’ bass clarinet section.
“The Game” rides a pretty melody across the length of a chipper tune. ElSaffar’s trumpet takes it nice and slow, while Shepik chatters excitedly on guitar, leading into a series of brief, talkative solos. “In a Nutshell” is a composition that delights in tangled melodic threads that sometimes get frayed at their ends. “Inner Voices” has the various instruments running tight orbits around one another, like a series of concentric circles rotating in opposite directions and at different speeds.
The album ends with a medley of sorts. It opens with the sweetly soft “Sweet Pain,” a composition that elicits imagery of moonlight on the water’s surface, and presents the sonic qualities that would serve as the perfect soundtrack to that scene. This transitions into a reprise of opening track “Nusrat,” offering up the speedy melody to close the album out.
Just a thrilling album. It’s a recording that thinks big.
Your album personnel: Jamie Baum (flute, alto flute, flute d’amore), Amir ElSaffar (trumpet), Brad Shepik (guitar), Douglas Yates (alto sax, bass clarinet), Chris Komer (French horn), John Escreet (piano, Fender Rhodes), Zachary Lober (bass), Jeff Hirshfield (drums), and guests: Samuel Torres (congas), Dan Weiss (tabla) and Taylor Haskins (trumpet).
Released on Sunnyside Records.
Listen to more of the album on the label’s Bandcamp page.
Jazz from NYC.
A portion of my introductory paragraph was originally used in my Jazz Picks weekly article for eMusic, so here’s some language protecting their rights to that reprinted material, as the one to hire me to write about new jazz arrivals to their site…
“New Arrivals Jazz Picks,“ reprints courtesy of eMusic.com, Inc.
© 2013 eMusic.com, Inc.
As always, my sincere thanks to eMusic for the gig. Cheers.