Jamie Baum is a rare improvising flutist who doesn't double from another instrument. For nearly a decade she's led an ambitious septet with French horn, trumpet and alto saxophone joining the frontline, propelled by piano, bass and drums. Doublings on alto flute, bass clarinet, flugelhorn and Fender Rhodes extend the ensemble's wide sonic and textural terrain.
A dense statement spanning 70+ minutes, Solace is the second CD by the septet. Joining Baum again are reedman Douglas Yates, pianist George Colligan and drummer Jeff Hirshfield, while longtime members trumpeter Ralph Alessi and French hornist Vincent Chancey split time with newcomers Shane Endsley and Chris Comer, respectively, with bassist Johannes Weidenmueller completing the group. The frontline unison of the title track's head dissolves for trumpet and flute solos, which conclude with spirited dialogue. Against staccato punctuations, the instruments call and respond on "Wheeler of Fortune (for Kenny Wheeler)" until a straight swing develops under Baum's soaring and Colligan's dashed comping, later building momentum with bass and bass clarinet behind Hirshfield's blazing embellishments.
Baum's four-part "Ives Suite" is the centerpiece of the CD, informed by the titular composer Charles Ives' "Fourth Symphony" and "Unanswered Question." Yates' alto struts over the easy feel of "Part 1: Time Traveler" while the tempo quickens on "Part 2" with bouncy piano and drums setting up Colligan's two-handed fusillades. With spoken word and vocalizations, guest Kyoko Kitamura comments on the state of our politics as snippets from JFK speeches unfurl over the lugubrious pace of "Part 3: Questions Unanswered," providing additional, if not wholly integrated, elements. The frontline instruments respond in a series of short exchanges over the spry "Part 4: Answers Unquestioned."
Embroidered with poignant melodies, elegant counter-lines, lush harmonies and shifting rhythms, Solace deftly melds formal elements of modern classical with broad improvisation.
Track Listing: Solace; Wheeler of Fortune (for Kenny Wheeler); Far Side; Ives Suite Part 1: Time Traveler; Ives Suite Part 2: Time Traveler; Ives Suite Part 3: Questions Unanswered; Ives Suite Part 4: Answers Unquestioned; In Passing; Pine Creek; Dave's Idea.
Personnel: Jamie Baum: flute; Ralph Alessi: trumpet, flugelhorn (1, 9, 10); Shane Endsley: trumpet, flugelhorn; Doug Yates: alto saxophone, bass clarinet; Vincent Chancey: French horn (3, 4, 6, 7, 8); Chris Komer: French horn; George Colligan: piano, Fender Rhodes; Jeff Hirshfield: drums; Johannes Weidenmueller: acoustic bass; Kyoko Kitamura: voice (6).