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From its first penetrating flute notes the sonic textures of South Asia frame Jamie Baum's ambitious collection In This Life, which successfully spotlights her compositional acuity, instrumental prowess, and talents as a bandleader.
As the title track "Nusrat" implies, the album is inspired in no small measure by internationally influential performer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, whose efforts brought the Sufi qawwali musical tradition to popular attention both through his performances and contributions to Hollywood movie scores. As well, Baum's experience as a US State Department/Kennedy Center Jazz Ambassador touring in South America, India, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Thailand and Bangladesh are evident in In This Life's tabla rhythms and vibrant colors, without overtly dominating the whole. Instead, these elements are interwoven with modern jazz structures and improvisational style, resulting is a many textured, nuanced series of tunes that traverse a diverse topography.
The opening "Nusrat" introduces the collection with an intense surge of energy supplied by the rapid-fire tabla rhythm, fierce trumpet, and Baum's cascading flute lines. Another exemplar of Baum's approach, "The Game" hypnotizes with its undulating beat and intertwined instrumental lines. Here, Brad Shepik
's distinctive guitar is particularly engrossing as he, Baum, and the brass section enter an elusive, swirling dance of intersecting steps. On "In a Nutshell," the band launches at a more oblique angle, juxtaposing pointilistic dissonance with a more traditional, lilting, ride-driven groove. "Ants And Other Faithful Beings" rides a funky, conga-inflected beat with John Escreet
's keyboard skipping over the choppy waves, while the horns and Baum's flute merge into a powerful swell. Finally, the album's closing piece "Sweet Pain/Nusrat" returns to the opening theme for a funereally paced, memorial lament carved with distinction by Baum's poignant flute lines.
While certain tunes at times become caught in their own webs, the majority of In This Life presents tightly focused, well-executed forays requiring close attention to extract their subtle motions and graceful depths.
Track Listing: Nusrat; The Meeting; Ants and Other Faithful Beings; In Another Life; Monkeys of Gokarna
Forest; While We Are Here; Richie's Lament; The Game; In a Nutshell; Inner Voices; Sweet
Personnel: Jamie Baum: Flute; Amir ElSaffar: trumpet,;Taylor Haskins: trumpet; Douglas Yates: alto sax
and bass clarinet; Chris Komer; French horn; John Escreet: keyboard; Brad Shepik: guitar;
Zach Lober: bass; Jeff Hirshfield, Dan Weiss: tabla; Samuel Torres: percussion, conga