In the booklet notes to this excellent album of Jamie Baum compositions (everything here except "From Scratch" is by Baum), the composer-flutist credits Bela Bartok and especially Igor Stravinsky as major influences on her writing. These influences emerge in luminous fashion on "Bar Talk," with its punning title, and the righteously Latin "Spring Rounds." Yet there's more than 20th Century classical influence in Baum's music; it's not hard to hear Moving Forward, Standing Still as a profound and brilliant extension of Eric Dolphy's ideas.
While Dolphy's music certainly took Stravinsky and Bartok into account, it seems more likely that he intended a grand synthesis of the bebop mainstream of Charlie Parker with the innovations of Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, and Dolphy himself If this is indeed the case, as I believe it is, then Jamie Baum has produced the next important step in a process Dolphy was unable to finish. Her compositions invoke modern strategies including tempo changes, as in "Central Park" and "All Roads Lead To You", and multiple themes. The chord progressions use the wide intervals Dolphy investigated, and the forms break away from Tin Pan Alley conventions, although there is a blues. But "Rivington Street Blues," with its unusual changes, is hardly an orthodox blues.
But for all its exhilirating adventurousness, Baum's music, like Dolphy's, is rooted in swing. Yes, funk and Latin rhythms are present, but in the main, whether it's in the up-tempo surge of "In The Journey," or the heated waltz of "Spring," this music cooks. The rhythm section is really together, and Hirshfield's prodding drums, along with Baum's arranged background figures, really inspire the soloists.
Yet as good as these compositions are, it's the combination of composition and improvising that makes this album so fulfilling. Baum herself is a terrific jazz musician, with impressive control, dynamics, ideas, and swing. Alessi, too, is wonderful, and his work on "In The Journey" is absolutely riveting. In fact, everybody here shines. Yates ebulliently invokes Dolphy without imitating him, and Colligan is original and substantial throughout. Varner adds depth and weight to the ensembles, and plays scorching solos. Gress, one of the finest younger bassists around, is empathetic and swinging. With Moving Forward, Standing Still , Jamie Baum has made a serious and possibly significant contribution to jazz.
All Roads Lead to You, Spring Rounds, In the Journey, Clarity, Medley: From Scratch/Primoridal Prelude,South Rim, Central Park, Bar Talk, Spring, Rivington Street Blues
Jamie Baumflute and alto flute; Ralph Alessitrumpet, flugelhorn; Doug Yatesalto saxophone and bass clarinet; Tom VarnerFrench horn; George Colliganpiano; Drew Gressbass; Jeff Hirshfielddrums
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