A collection of songs, some of which are likely to be included in aficionados' play lists; interpretations that don't stray very far off the beaten path; and a band of players who share a vision of how the material should be handled. It's the recipe for many recordingspast, present and future within the mainstream of jazz. So, why does alto saxophonist Dmitry Baevsky
, an entry that readily fits this pattern, stand out from the crowd?
In Baevsky's scheme the melodies of popular songs from the 20th century, such as "La Chanson de Maxence" (AKA, "You Must Believe in Spring"), and "Stranger in Paradise," are worthy of special consideration. Though he possesses a jazz musician's proclivity for reconfiguring a melodic line, oftentimes minimal modifications are sufficient to put the song across. Two consecutive trips through "Evening Song" sound as if Baevsky is encouraging the listener to savor the differences. The often covered "Autumn in New York" succeeds on account of his deft blend of the melody and bop-influenced enhancements.
The same attention to detail applies to Baevsky's treatments of an array of tunes by venerable jazz musicians: Sonny Rollins
' "Grand Street," Horace Silver
's "The Jody Grind," Dexter Gordon
's "Le Coiffeur," Ornette Coleman
's "Invisible," Ahmad Jamal
's "Tranquility" and John Lewis
' "Afternoon in Paris." One distinguishing characteristic of Baevsky's approach to the jazz material (as well as the popular songs) is his regard for dynamics. In contrast to many contemporary saxophonists who sound as if they're demanding to be heard, he's more likely to come way down in volume then to roar, bark or bellow. For instance, the first time around "Grand Street" sounds as if Baevsky is revealing a soulful secret. Joined to his sensitivity to dynamics is the capacity to sound at one with the band on the heads. The music is all the better for his willingness to forsake being the center of attention. A couple of prime examples are "The Jody Grind" and "Tranquility."
"Evening Song" and "Afternoon in Paris," the tracks that bookend the record, best represent Baevsky's virtues as a soloist. The three choruses on "Evening Song" gradually move away from the haunting melody, as he leans into the medium tempo pulse, fashions edgy, well-proportioned lines, and integrates the sprinting runs that are an essential feature of his style. A rendering of "Afternoon in Paris" with only bass and drums displays a more adventuresome disposition. While the solo ultimately remains on solid ground, Baevsky scatters pithy comments throughout and, as if harnessing all his strength, reaches a startling climax at the beginning of the second chorus.
For all Baevsky's capabilities as a song interpreter and improviser, a considerable amount of the success of Soundtrack
is due to the contributions of a first-rate band comprised of pianist Jeb Patton
, bassist David Wong
and drummer Pete Van Nostrand
. Their united approach to "The Jody Grind" feels like a deeply grooving assembly of component parts. The breezy Latin quality they bring to "Le Coiffeur" amounts to an invitation to dance. The amiable, medium tempo swing of "La Chanson De Maxence" advances without any signs of stress or strife. Van Nostrand epitomizes good timekeeping, precise sticking, tasteful fills, as well as his placing strokes slightly beneath the bass line. Patton's perceptive accompaniment buoys the ensemble without taking up too much space. Wong's firm, muscular lines make a deep impression while working in tandem with Van Nostrand. Soundtrack
is Baevsky's most accomplished recording to date, a sophisticated, invigorating piece of work that makes one look forward to his future endeavors.
Evening Song; Vamos Nessa; Baltiyskaya; Grand Street; The Jody Grind; La Chanson De Maxence; Over and Out;
Le Coiffeur; Invisible; Autumn in New York; Stranger in Paradise; Tranquility; Afternoon in Paris.