January 1, 1970Jazz Notes is it this week — a profile of the flutist-composer Jamie Baum, who brings her septet to the Regattabar on Wednesday.
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'Moving Forward' with a classical touch
By Bill Beuttler, Globe Correspondent | November 12, 2004
There's a good deal of Igor Stravinsky peeking out of "Moving Forward, Standing Still," the impressive new debut CD of the Jamie Baum Septet. And nods to Bla Bartk and Charles Ives as well.
But for all that classical inspiration, it's jazz the group will be playing at its Regattabar CD release party Wednesday — and in the master class preceding it that afternoon at New England Conservatory.
The woman who wrote the tunes, flutist-composer Baum, is first and foremost a respected jazz musician, one with a couple of well-received CDs under her belt. And she's assembled a crack team of others like her — leaders of their own bands, much-in-demand sidemen, and skilled improvisers all — to help tackle this more classically oriented work.
The project began five years ago, when Baum, a 1981 NEC graduate, was wrapping up her master's degree in composition at the Manhattan School of Music. For her master's recital, she was obliged to write for a larger group than her usual quartet or quintet. She wound up choosing to compose for a septet made up of a four-horn frontline and a piano-bass-drums rhythm section, which evolved into her current lineup. Also at Manhattan, Baum had the chance to delve deeply into one of her favorite compositions in a class devoted to Stravinsky and other 20th-century masters.
"When I was much younger," she recalls by phone from New York, "one of the pieces that I really loved was 'The Rite of Spring.' So actually revisiting that in a more academic way, in terms of understanding what it was that I liked about it, was really exciting.
"There were a lot of things in that piece that seemed to lend themselves to things that I wanted to do with my jazz composition with my septet."
Stravinsky, notes Baum, was similar to Duke Ellington in that each liked to layer sophisticated musical ideas beneath simple, straightforward melodies.
"He's got these beautiful melodies," she says of Stravinsky, "these sort of Russian folk melodies that you hear, and yet there are all these complex rhythmic and harmonic things that are going on underneath it, where there's all this displacement of rhythms and multi-layers of melodies and ideas and changing of meters and stuff like that."
Half of her 10 originals on the CD either borrow directly from or were heavily inspired by "The Rite of Spring." (The tunes paying homage to Ives and Bartok are, respectively, "Central Park" and "Bar Talk.")
Still, the music is very much her own. It's accessible without being insipid, pretty yet intellectually engaging, and strikes a fine, deliberate balance in giving soloists ample freedom without permitting them to abuse it.
"Sometimes," she says, "as a listener, I just find I would like there to be more of a relationship between the soloing and the composition. So I sort of tended to look to some of the structures and formats that you find in classical music and see if I couldn't steal some things and put them into the jazz context."
That meant, among other things, making good use of counterpoint and taking advantage of the full range of colors offered by the septet's instrumentation range.
"Jamie is a great composer," septet pianist George Colligan says. "She's very influenced by Stravinsky and Ives. The reason her piano parts are challenging is she's writing independent lines instead of typical jazz chords. It's a very 20th-century classical sound, which also makes us improvise differently. I think Charlie Parker would've ended up writing like that if he had lived a little longer."
The Jamie Baum Septet will perform and celebrate the release of the CD "Moving Forward, Standing Still" at the Regattabar at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday. $12. Call 617-395-7757.
Berklee goes Latin
The Berklee College of Music will take on a Spanish accent next week, with the school's fifth annual Latin Culture Week set to run Monday through Friday. The week's highlight will be a Wednesday night tribute to the Mambo Kings — Tito Puente, Tito Rodriguez, and Machito — at the Berklee Performance Center, featuring Berklee professor Eguie Castrillo's Palladium Night Orchestra and guest vibraphonist Victor Mendoza.
Other events include: Mili Bermejo and Dan Greenspan performing Bermejo's original Latin jazz and folk music Monday night, followed by a set of Afro-Peruvian music, and a Tuesday visiting artist clinic by Grammy-winning Berklee grad Juan Luis Guerra, focusing on his bachata merengue, mixing traditional music from his native Dominican Republic with jazz harmonies. For a complete schedule and ticket prices, see www.berklee.edu.
© Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company