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Maria Baptist: Resonance

Geno Thackara By

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Maria Baptist has several favorite contexts for her piano—trio, trio-plus-one, solo or with an orchestra—and yet there's always a certain throughline that comes through in any setting. It's a sophisticated voice that's highly emotional, evocative and vivid as life.

Following on from a successful year of profile-building and highly visible gigs, Baptist goes small-scale here for her most cozy and intimate recording yet. It's themed around the practice of meditation, being fully present in one's surroundings and open to anything. Arguably most music is best experienced that way—even though that (to put it mildly) is often not the case—and Resonance not only deserves such attention but demands it. Baptist's intense focus and immersion in the music elevates it to beautiful, sometimes breathtaking, results.

In keeping with the in-the-moment theme, this recording was largely improvised in a single-day session starting with only a handful of loosely drawn ideas. Keith Jarrett listeners will doubtlessly notice the similarity to his iconic Facing You (ECM, 1971) for that reason right away. Baptist does show the stamp of her predecessor, from ear-catching vamps to classy chamber sounds and warm hints of American folk, and a blind listener would believe this was an ECM release with no trouble. Still, these meditations make an eclectic series of aural paintings that couldn't have come from anybody else.

While these motifs could also allow for free musings or open-ended explorations, here Baptist turns them into carefully sculpted miniatures. There's almost a narrative flow through the set, as it begins with some deceptively simple-sounding candlelight meditations before drifting toward more skewed tonalities in the middle. The pieces are often dazzling on a technical level whether fast or slow (see the disquieting mid-set "Urban Meditation" and thunderous rumbles of "Raising the Frequencies"), though that's always secondary to the powerful emotional punch conveyed by the music's own picturesque lifts and falls.

The warmth is almost palpable when those roiling cascades give way to simple pastoral melodies towards the set's end. The early struggle of "The Blossom" makes the eventual harmonic unfolding sound like a well-deserved reward; the easy-loping "Early Sunday Morning" channels just the right dose of Vince Guaraldi to follow, while the heartfelt closer feels like a pure cozy sunbeam. Resonance is a journey crafted with laughter and drama, unafraid to embrace simplicity and silence, and makes an experience worth savoring in every moment.

Track Listing: Resonance; Stillness Speaks; The High Line; After the Darkness; Urban Meditation; Raising the Frequencies; The Blossom; Early Sunday Morning; Song of the Soul.

Personnel: Maria Baptist: piano.

Title: Resonance | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Self Produced

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