Jamie Baum Septet
New York, New York
January 24, 2009
The sheer number of great jazz musicians who play in the New York area is staggering. It makes the life of a music critic incredibly easy. The only difficulty is choosing which musicians to see and which to pass up. And so it was that on a windy, cold night in January this reviewer decided to experience the Jamie Baum Septet at Joe's Pub in the East Village. The experience was nothing short of extraordinary.
First, the space. Joe's is a haven from the biting cold and the hustle and bustle of the city. Dimly lit, unlike most other smaller spaces Joe's exudes an relaxed, comfortable feel. Tables are set far enough apart from each other so as to afford maximum room to maneuver, and a row of couches with full view of the stage are inspired. Small enough to retain that homely feel, yet large enough to accommodate many different types of acts, Joe's is yet another in a long line of interesting venues in New York.
Parked on one of the couches, I settled down to listen to Jamie Baum perform her winter magic. Baum's septet includes Ralph Alessi (trumpet), Doug Yates (alto sax, bass clarinet), Mark Taylor (French horn), George Colligan (piano), Johannes Weidenmueller (bass), and Jeff Hirshfield (drums). Baum herself plays flute. This band has been together for 10 years now, a real achievement given the stature of its members.
This show was not so much a showcase of Baum's chops on the flute as it was an insight into her great compositional acumen. From the onset, the night became a winding journey through the leader's life experiences and imagined realities. The tunes varied from fast to slow, simple to complex, and post-bop to grooveless "out" playing. Each tune was gripping, and played to perfection by the ensemble.
What was truly remarkable was the way each musician was able to be himself inside the framework of the compositions. Alessi's pensive, complex style seemed all too effortless, while Taylor provided counterpoint with his energetic solos. Weidenmuller's wooden tone was perfect for the often ostinato basslines. Colligan was a revelation on the piano, his solos drawing the biggest applause of the night. His energy was palpable, and he was able to synthesize an array of styles into a sound all his own.
The night fittingly ended with "In the Journey," an aptly titled tune that left the audience unaware of its surroundings. The best compliment that can be given to such compositional creativity is that all concept of the passage of time was lost. I had been transported into Baum's world for what seemed like a precious few moments, but it was enough to leave me breathless and wanting more. This is a group deserving wider recognition, and if they happen to be performing near you, the opportunity to go on a journey of your own should not be passed up.