New York City based, Connecticut transplant, flutist and composer Jamie Baum has led a envious career. As a first call flutist she has worked with such heavy weights as Kenny Werner, Tom Harrell, Fred Hersch, Donald Brown, Kenny Barron, Randy Brecker, Dave Douglas, Uri Caine, Paul Motian, George Russell and John Abercrombie, to name only a few. In addition to her work in jazz Baum is also a highly regarded performer in classical, Brazilian, Latin and Indian music. Perennially included in the DownBeat Critics poll since 1998, in 1999 she was awarded the International Jazz Composers Alliance/Julius Hemphill Composition Award in the Small Group category, has won three National Endowment for the Arts awards, received two Meet The Composer grants and a NPN grant. Baum earned her Bachelor’s degree from the New England Conservatory and her Master’s degree from the Manhattan School of Music.
The music on Solace, all written by Baum for her septet, here augmented by three guests on a few of the numbers, embodies the best conceptualizations of medium sized jazz combos working in tonal music at the start of the 21st century; the arrangements are multi-faceted, they call upon unique and subtly transparent timbres, allow room for soloists to stretch out, and when defined by 21st century standards, swing like nobody’s business - check out the horn "shout" chorus on "Ives Suite Part 1." From the first notes of disc to the ending of "Dave’s Idea," Baum has created a kaleidoscopic panorama of shifting harmonic waves balanced by translucent ensemble writing that is both thickly-scored and full of open melodic and harmonic accompaniment pairings.
"Wheeler Of Fortune," inspired by the music of trumpeter/flugelhornist Kenny Wheeler, is a fine case in point. After an opening melodic romp through a rhythmically shifting framework, Baum’s flute comes to the fore. Her reputation for performing extremely thoughtful improvisations is again aptly displayed. Riding within the harmonic framework she is both in and out of its harmonic grasp at all times. From this solo alone one can see why she is loved by critics; tight melodic ideas co-joined by an innate sense of what is logical and forward-thinking at the same time. This is followed by a marvelous trumpet solo from Shane Endsley before eventually giving way to exceptional percussion work by Jeff Hirshfield, all of which leads back to the encapsulated melodic strains from the opening.
This one example stands equally for each composition presented. Stand out work on the disc includes Endsley’s solo on "Far Side." Here he shows once again why he is perhaps one of the world’s three best trumpeters deserving wider recognition. In addition Baum’s solos throughout should be fodder for transcription by all serious jazz flutists, pianist George Colligan finds a way to be ever-present and stay out of the way of Baum’s advanced upper chordal structure horn writing, and Hirshfield’s set work demonstrates why he is so highly sought after by legions of today’s top artists.
Baum’s cerebral jazz, for its thoughtful melodic constructs, its harmonic structures which force soloists to make deliberate choices rather than perform go-through-the-motion solos, and independent rhythmic proclivities, will not be for everyone. However, in this recording you can hear why so many great jazz artists line up for the chance to perform her music.