The Jamie Baum Septet +
In This Life
This album roars out of the opening gate with the blistering “Nusrat,” a nod to Qawwali vocalist Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, whose presence reverberates throughout the record. Baum opens everything up with a short, breathy flute statement before the full band jumps in with the horns on blast. Drummer Jeff Hirshfield’s splashy restraint is pushed relentlessly by tabla player Dan Weiss who doubles up on the intensity as the furious melody stutters with lightning speed. Guitarist Brad Shepik makes a jarring leap into the madness towards the end, wielding enough might to cut a car in half. The intensity pulls back for the next few tracks. The tribal funk of “Ants and Other Fatihful Beings” is demolished by a jarring piano solo from John Escreet that does not quite pair up with the meticulous arrangements of Baum’s melody while “Richie’s Lament,” a tune dedicated to Richie Beirach, one of four listed producers on the album, revels in space with a hymnal-like quality. Bass clarinetist Douglas Yates ascends over that roominess with measured confidence. Baum later tackles two compositions from Khan including “The Game” from his early 90s English fusion Mustt Mustt. The performance is driven by Escreet’s bouncing simplicity with Shepik bubbling up in through the seams. The tune is played like a fairly straight-forward jazz affair, eschewing the pop production values of the original as well as the rugged melisma of Khan’s vocals. It’s Pakistani origins are buried way deep. Baum’s long-gestating record is heavily influenced by her travels in Southeast Asia but the overall sound of the project cannot be pinpointed to any location on the globe. She effortlessly blends seven or eight voices into an orchestra that at times feels unstoppable.