Ms. Baum's latest project, "Bridges", attracts from the moment one sees Masashi Karabuki's stunning cover photograph ("In This Life" also possess a striking cover - take a look). The nine-song program is split into three distinct sections. The first three tracks, "From The Well", "Song Without Words", and "There Are No Words") are influenced by the composer's recent personal experiences. The opening track celebrates Ms. Baum's explorations into Maqam, Jewish, and South Asian music. While one absorbs the exciting melody line, make sure to pay attention to the splendid leadership and support from the rhythm section (pianist John Escreet, guitarist Brad Shepik, bassist Zach Lober, and drummer Jeff Hirschfield plus guest percussionist Jamey Haddad). There are excellent solos from the leader, bass clarinetist Sam Sadigursky (the newest member of the ensemble), and ElSaffar, whose phrases, at times, reminds this listener of the Muslim call-to-prayer yet also move into "freer" territory. The trumpeter, who ins increasingly showcasing his vocal talents, gets the lead on the second track, which carries the subtitle "for S. James Baum." Here, the vocal line is influenced by Hebrew prayer (but not "The Mourner's Kaddish"), a way to give thanks for the life of a parent or loved one. Besides the stunning vocal, there are excellent (and emotional) solos from Sadigursky (bass clarinet) and Ms. Baum (alto flute). "There Are No Words" also refers to the mourning process but here there is a sense of renewal and purpose. Bassist Lober takes the first solo, a handsome melodic turn. Ms. Baum follows, her flute electronically split into two registers. Escreet steps out next for a fleet-fingered dance.
"Bridges", the album, does what bridges, the structure, are built to do i.e. break down barriers, cross borders, bring people and ideas together, and to take people to new places to have new experiences. Jamie Baum Septet+ continues to make exceptional music, music that makes us think, makes us contemplate, and moves us in so many ways.
For more information, go to jamiebaum.com. There you will see that the ensemble will have a CD Release Weekend at the end of May (5/25-27) with two of the shows in Connecticut.
Enjoy this track from the album:
Jamie Baum - flutes, singing bowl
Amir ElSaffar - trumpet, vocals
Sam Sadigursky - alto sax, bass clarinet
Chris Komer - French horn
Brad Shepik -guitar
John Escreet - piano
Zack Lober - bass, singing bowl
Jeff Hirschfeld - drums
Jamey Haddad - percussion
Navin Chettri - percussion, tanpura, vocals
here) and "Ima Ima", a studio recording by her 10-member Pan Asian Chamber Ensemble. It's quite an engaging project that blends the sounds of Newsome's soprano sax, Tom Harrell (trumpet, flugelhorn), Sam Sadigursky (clarinet, bass clarinet), and Annie Drummond (flute, alto flute, piccolo) with the rhythm section of Brian Marsella (piano, electric piano), Rez Abbasi (guitar), Pablo Aslan (bass), and Jared Schonig (drums) plus several appearances by Riza Printup (harp).
The album's title combines Ms. Okura's native upbringing ("ima" means "now" in Japanese) with her adopted religion ("Ima" is "mother" in Hebrew) while the music blends her myriad of interests, from the folk and classical music she grew up with as well as the jazz that is her passion and life. The title track has a lovely melody line that is supported by an active rhythm section. Ms. Drummond's flute blends with the soprano sax and violin introduce the main theme before Newsome steps out for a lengthy and far-reaching solo. The composer's impressions of her time in Israel are the basis of "A Summer in Jerusalem", a piece that opens as a sound montage: then the bass clarinet introduces the bass line and the ensemble powers forward. The arrangement shows the strong influence of Gil Evans behind the strong solos from Marsella (electric piano), Abbasi, and the leader. After Ms. Okura brings her an end, everyone drops out save Ms. Printup's harp. She introduces the fine flugelhorn solo while the ensemble slowly climbs back into the picture (note the lovely wordless vocal from Ms. Okura).
"Ima Ima" makes for engaging listening. Filled with strong melodies, excellent arrangements, and fine musicianship, the album is a journey inward and outward with Meg Okura telling her young daughter the story of her ancestors, the story of the challenges her mother went through to come to the United States, and how hard it was to begin a new life. There is no bitterness, no losing faith: instead, the music can be viewed and listened to as a celebration of survival, renewal, and hope for a brighter future.
For more information, go to www.megokura.com.
Here is the title track: