Far from prolific, Jamie Baum has recorded just four albums in the past decade. However, each recording has clearly been created because the flutist was inspired to contribute something new. Bridges is presented as six songs separated equally by the three part "Honoring Nepal: The Shiva Suite." This almost cinematic 20-minute centerpiece composition is an expansive dedication to the country and its people following the destruction and loss wrought by an earthquake just three years prior. At times regal and calm, at others ominous or triumphant, the septet captures a rich and colorful tapestry of emotions, led by Baum's impressive compositional ability.
That same talent as composer is the very thing which elevates Bridges well above the mundane. While Baum's skill as a flutist is commendable (she was awarded a Guggenheim fellowship in 2015), her ability to skillfully weave together sounds from almost a dozen instruments as well as a few occasional vocalists is most impressive. Of course, it helps that she has surrounded herself once again with top-tier talent, giving her the ability to write specifically to her band member's strengths. Rather than reigning her septet in, she gives the musicians freedom to explore within the songs they've developed. This has the effect of giving the album's songs character as well as structure.
Aside from the album's suite, a few standouts include "Joyful Lament," wherein Brad Shepik showcases his talent as a guitarist, ending the song with a 2 ½ minute solo serving as a culmination to the relentless, driving melody established before it. While the album-opening "From the Well" allows Baum a chance to weave her flute together with Sam Sadigursky's saxophone in a blustering, anxious number, pianist John Escreet plainly steals "There Are No Words." He yields an exuberant solo, giving heft to Baum's flute playing while causing the whole ensemble to seem effortless.
Continuing to meld her Jewish, Arabic, and South Asian influences with meaningful music fashioned primarily from feelings of anguish and spiritual contemplation, Bridges is the most polished and coherent of Jamie Baum's Septet+ albums. It feels like a natural progression within her discography, offering a more impressive level of composition and arrangement than she has released yet.
From The Well;
Song Without Words (for S. James Baum);
There Are No Words;
Honoring Nepal: The Shiva Suite Part 1 - The Earthquake;
Honoring Nepal: The Shiva Suite Part 2 - Renewal ;
Honoring Nepal: The Shiva Suite Part 3 - Contemplation;
Jamie Baum: flutes, singing bowl;
Amir ElSaffar: trumpet, vocals;
Sam Sadigursky: alto saxophone/bass clarinet;
Chris Komer: French horn;
Brad Sheik: guitar;
John Escreet: piano;
Zack Lober: bass, singing bowl;
Jeff Hirshfield: drums;
Jamey Haddad: percussion;
Navin Chettri: percussion, vocals.