New York based Jamie Baum is among the most highly regarded jazz flutists in the USA (recognised in the DownBeat Critics Polls since 1998, #3 in the 2016 Top Flutists category in 2016.) Equally well known as a composer, teacher and clinician, Jamie has recorded extensively, including five recordings under her own name, three of them with her award-winning septet that serves as a major focus for her composition projects. She is now on the verge of releasing her sixth record, the fourth with the septet.
The new recording, named Bridges is due for release by Sunnyside Records on May 18th. Jamie always lavishes great care on the development of her recordings so every new release is a major event. In this case, the septet will be presenting several concerts/release parties including in New York and Connecticut, as well as later dates at the Monterey Jazz Festival, Roulette and festivals in Europe.
Watch for more information and reviews of Bridges and Sheroes coming shortly.
CD info: Sunnyside Records
Meanwhile, Jamie has recently appeared on the James Hall recording Lattice:
Personnel – James Hall: trombone; Jamie Baum: flute; Deanna Witkowski: piano, Fender Rhodes; Tom DiCarlo: bass; Allan Mednard: drums + guest Sharel Cassity: alto sax (2, 4)
1. Shoy 2. Black Narcissus 3. Lattice 4. Brittle Stitch 5. Gaillardia 6. Traveler 7. Kind Folk 8. Terrace
In the course of its development as a major jazz instrument, the flute has been aided by a number of factors. Perhaps the most significant has been the stream of individual performances over time from a group of fine artists – from Frank Wess and James Moody to Hubert Laws and James Newton. (See my book: The Flute in Jazz: Window on World Music). More recently, the growth of jazz flute ensembles, from Paul Horn’s Swinging Shepherds to Flutology to the various Jazz Flute Big Bands, has given the flute a greater profile in jazz. No less important, however, has been the incorporation of the flute into the “front line” of jazz ensembles large and small. The expansion of the tonal platte in jazz writing by such composer/arrangers as Maria Schneider reflects the emergence of the flute along with the revival of the clarinet, resulting in saxophone sections looking more like woodwind sections. More needs to be done in this area, particularly in the case of college jazz bands and stage bands where there is still little place for flute specialists who do not wish to double on saxophone in order to join a ‘reed’ section.
One artist who has contributed greatly to this process is New York flutist Jamie Baum. Known for her composing as much as for her performing, she has written extensively for, and toured with her own ensemble, a septet that blends her flute and alto flute with more traditional ‘front line’ instruments such as trumpet and saxophone, as well as the more unusual French horn. She has also been heard on a number of recordings as a guest artist where, again, she has blended her flute with brass and reed instruments. In a recent recording Jamie blends her flutes with the trombone of James Hall. Trombone and flute remain an unusual combination in jazz. It appears on Herbie Hancock‘s Speak Like a Child, with Jerry Dodgion on alto flute and Peter Phillips on bass trombone, Andrea Brachfeld works with Steve Turre on her recording with Chembo Corniel Beyond Standards, and Cuban based, charanga ensembles, such as that employed on Colette Michaan’s recent recordings do feature flute and trombone, often with a small string section. Pianist Monica Herzig employs Jamie in a 5 to 9 piece ensemble with brass and reeds, etc. But it is still a rarity.
A case in point is a new recording from New York trombonist and composer James Hall. Although leavened on two tracks by Sharel Cassity’s alto sax, the dominant timbre is the combination of Baum’s flute and alto flute with the leader’s trombone, itself a blending of an essentially New York sound with Hall’s midwestern overtones (he is originally from Omaha, Nebraska.)
Both Hall and Baum tend to focus on their own compositions in their performances and Lattice is no exception, with half a dozen Hall originals plus a classic, Black Narcissus, by saxophonist Joe Henderson and, Kind Folk, a welcome contribution from the largely overlooked oeuvre of late trumpet/flugelhorn master Kenny Wheeler.
The trombone/alto flute blend is evident from the start on Shoy, an engaging waltz-time original, then Hall shifts the timbre, but not the time signature, for the Joe Henderson piece, with pianist Deanna Witkowski moving to electric keyboard and the introduction of Cassity’s fiery alto work. The title piece is a gentle ballad while Brittle Stitch hits a middle tempo groove under the coaxing of Alan Mednard’s precise and sensitive drum work, with Cassity making another appearance to push things along. The carefully orchestrated patchwork continues with a deft handling of potential timbres, tempi and rhythmic feelings, and — very important — no over-indulgent solos or over-use of any specific effects, including trombone mutes which make a brief appearance in Terrace. Kind Folks reminds us of Wheeler’s brilliance as a composer, while the whole album demonstrates Hall’s creativity and sensitivity as a composer/arranger, while the line up affirms that the flute, at least in Jamie Baum’s hands, can hold its own in any jazz ensemble’s front line.
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