Aug 1 2016
When I first began this site back in December 2011, included in my initial volley of posts were a recap of the best that 2011 had to offer by way of jazz and improvised music. One of those recordings was Bridges, from the duo of trumpeter Kris Tiner and guitarist Mike Baggetta. I listen to that album now, and were I to write the recommendation all over again, it would say exactly what I’d typed back then. Of their individual approaches on that recording, “… each on their respective instruments, they have an inquisitive style, music curiosity that isn’t so much interested about what lies around the next corner as an obsession in viewing the corner from unusual perspectives. It renders a feeling of wandering great distances without ever traveling very far from home.” And of their interactions, “… It’s as if their familiarity with one another leads to an understanding of what the other is thinking, but instead of using that as a planning tool for improvisation, the familiarity is seen as more useful as establishing trust. They’re not bonded together by composition so much as held together by the magnetism of their improvisations.”
Their collaboration on Bridges was not unlike how the sun and the moon can share the same sky for a short while, their cross-purposes of day and night discarded with the understanding that the common goal of each is to light up the sky when the moment is right. There is no conflict to overcome on their 2015 release The Stars Would Be Different. There is a much greater sense of a unity of vision between the two this time around, and while their melodic shaping still possesses an individualistic touch, the synchronicity of impulse and direction creates a fullness of expression greater than the efforts of each musician measured in isolation. Before they were planetary; Now they encompass the universe.
The gentle cries and comforting hums of opening track “The Stars Would Be Different” carry on through the entirety of the recording, both as an approach and as an afterimage. “Leroy” has sudden bursts of activity, and those are enjoyable in and of themselves, but the way the duo enters melodic glides at the tail end of those flurries, like hazy contrails left behind after the jet has cut across the sky, is the kind of flourish that’s most worth savoring. “Evening Hawks” reveals itself as would a moon behind clouds slowly crawling across the horizon… often obscured in fragments except for those jarring moments when viewed in its totality. This effect continues on final track “Afterthought,” except now their actions are directed as ocean waves carrying the reflection of that moonlight on the shoulders of the tides.
They also perform three cover songs. The playful way they approach the melody of Willie Nelson’s “Crazy” is like a comic duo where Baggetta is the straight man to Tiner’s wind-ups. A rendition of Hank Williams “Ramblin’ Man” has plenty of fight, but Tiner and Baggetta evoke the song like the nighttime hours are dwindling, last call’s been called and the bar neon flickers off. And the duo takes the melody of Kitty Wells “All the Time” and rides it off into the night.
But the gems of this album are the originals. It’s what’s going to make want to have been there for the performance and it’s what’s gonna make you wish they had kept on playing all night long.
Your album personnel: Kris Tiner (trumpet) and Mike Baggetta (guitar).
Released on Epigraph Records.
Listen to more album tracks on the label’s Bandcamp page.
Jazz from the Bakersfield, CA scene.
Available at: Bandcamp
And be sure to check out the write-up of their 2011 release Bridges, which still comes highly recommended by this site.
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