It’s obvious Baum understands the vernacular of the blues and works with all of the various blues-influenced sounds his instrument is able to create. From high decibel whirls to quick crescendo accents and funky glissandi, Baum is able to place his various tumbrel inflections into the music at appropriate times in order to bring the music that extra sense of down-and-dirtiness necessary to truly play the blues the way it’s meant to be played.
Of all the personnel he utilizes on this recording the best ones are those that include former employer guitarist/singer Bill Perry. It’s obvious that the years spent together have really helped them to know each others strengths, and they play to those strengths on the three tunes they do together. Their highlight together is Rock Me Baby. This tune, with a mostly throw-away lyric, cuts immediately to the heart of the style. Perry’s guitar is on fire from the first note to the last, and Baum knows just how to give Perry’s amplified lines the room they deserve yet be totally supportive during the momentary instants of repose between wailing riffs. During Perry’s vocals Baum is just as attentive to creating a rich bed of sound from which Perry is able to intone his cries of desire. The tune never lets up, and at the end when the two trade short solos you can really hear the symbiosis between them. A truly great performance.
The other really great group used on the recording is the one employing Tony Velez on guitar. He is the real guitar star of this recording. With a sense of line and direction that is quick and agile, his performance just cries out for greater recognition. Not only is his playing on Liberty Street the personification of hot, but he is able to take the jazz standard Autumn Leaves into previously uncharted blues territory - a real tour de-force which may not be to everyone’s ears, but it’s certainly nice to hear some real originality in a piece after so many banal attempts at the piece by jazz musicians over the years.
The problem with the recording is that there is a real lack of significant melodies. Only the closing traditional hymn Amazing Grace and the ballad Goin’ Home have any real staying power. The rest of the material lacks bite and therefore forces the soloists to have to do more with their solos in order to enliven the recording than they are, for the most part, able to do. This recording is a good starting point for Baum, but let’s hope it’s all uphill from here.