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Joey Baron: Just Listen

Glenn Astarita By

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Drummer Joey Baron and guitarist Bill Frisell have collaborated on and off for three decades, and both artists are firmly ensconced within the modern era's jazz transformation, spanning avant-garde, modern mainstream jazz, jazz-rock and so on. Frisell is a guitar hero, while Baron's far-reaching influence needs no elaboration here. This album denotes the output from a 2008 drum summit in Bonn, Germany. But as producer Stephan Andrae cites in the album notes, the program was based on "three abstract pillars of content: Rhythm, Floating, and Magic." With that in mind, the musicians operate from the same plane of thought amid a joint musical spirit that, from the outset, yields copious rewards.

Baron's holistic musicality effortlessly parallels the concert's rhythmic-based goals. In addition, he acts as a colorist when dancing across the toms along with a few brief solo spots, containing lyrical qualities. Sustaining interest is not always the case when artists partake in a barebones setting sans a bassist or instrument augmentation. But the duo's use of openness spawns a vantage point, which is a factor that allows them to improvise from a 360-degree perspective. They reverse engineer many of these works and also engage in skittish flurries, changeable pulses, fragmented choruses and high-volume aerial attacks.

"Trick Memory" features Frisell's restrained experimentation, exhibited by upper-register harmonics and some off-kilter fidgeting, but they take this piece farther along with a sweet melody-line that carries the semblance of lullaby. Intricately executed delicacies are woven into the overall fabric. However, another diversion emanates from their take on Sam Coooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come," which is a capacious soul-blues treat, sprinkled with tuneful hooks and Frisell's vibrato-drenched chord clusters. Then the guitarist puts the pedal to the metal via reverberating single note leads, followed by some general mayhem for the closeout.

Baron's lyrical traits shine on the jazz standard "Cherokee," as he bounces and darts across the kit during this swiftly exercised rendition. The final track is the duo's original composition "Home On The Road," leading to guitarist John McLaughlin's memorable "Follow Your Heart," a medium-tempo ballad boasting a succinct melody that falls somewhere between joy and sorrow. But that doesn't last long—Baron steps up the pace and Frisell launches into a tirade, gushing brash crunch chords and maniacal distortion-induced phrasings. To summarize, Just Listen is a stylistic outing that institutionalizes the respective musicians' boundless synergy and irrefutable camaraderie. You can't learn this stuff in school. From a duet-based perspective, it's a match made in heaven.

Track Listing: Surprise / Benny’s Bounce; Trick Memory; Pick apart; Night Howl; A Change Is Gonna Come; Cherokee; Mood; My Little Suede Shoes; Home On The Road / Follow Your Heart.

Personnel: Joey Baron: drums; Bill Frisell: guitar

Title: Just Listen | Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: Relative Pitch Records

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