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Jim Baker: More Questions Than Answers (2005)

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Jim Baker: More Questions Than Answers How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

The liner notes to Jim Baker's first Delmark release are full of apologies. He writes that maybe he should have done an ensemble session with some of the musicians he has been working with lately, like Kent Kessler, Fred Lonberg-Holm, Michael Zerang, Josh Abrams, Steve Hunt, Brian Sandstrom, or Avreeyal Ra. He thinks these "free improvisations" might not be "entirely free from tune-like influence and says, "If I were to do another one of these solo recordings, maybe I would just stick to standards.

Certainly, a standards repertoire would give us a better frame of reference for Baker's playing. We could pin him down as to style and influence. His choice of recording hours of mostly introspective free pieces, then choosing the assemblage here, is not the stuff of detective novels. It's his choice of some pretty interesting titles. Like reading a playlist from Thelonious Monk, I dare anyone to match the listed titles to any song.

The Chicago-based pianist has been on the scene for nearly two decades now recording with Fred Anderson, Guillermo Gregorio, and Ken Vandermark in the bands Witches & Devils, Caffeine, and Steam. He can play just about anything from block chords to free synthesizer.

Here he chooses to wander about, attempting instant two-handed composition. The mostly chamber music eschews drama for intimacy. No noisy runs or pounding. The first few spins through, you might find the music lacking. Repeated sessions, say on a rainy night or a relaxed weekend, and Baker's way is revealed. The shy probing he works at is a thoughtful album of his mind's library.

Three ancient ARP 2600 synthesizer tracks sprinkled between his travels sound like the soundtrack to the sci-fi afternoon movies where space travelers from the future wore clothes that were hip in the 1970s.

Jim Baker wasn't out to shake up the world with this solo recording. He does, though, catch the attention with his small gestures and thoughtful probing.

Track Listing: Watching The Interstate; Tolled Deadpan; Tocsin Du Jour; Happenstance; Post-Indus trial Societies And Their Precursors; Infinity Trap Blues; Is It Still Mine If Theyre Deaf?; Mourning Doves; Grey Comedy; Hobbesians Choice; More Questions Than Answers; Airstrip Vespers; Through The Woods, Over The River.

Personnel: Jim Baker - Piano, Analogue Synthesizer.

Record Label: Delmark Records

Style: Modern Jazz


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