Presented in a slightly different sequence from the live performances, the music consists of two suites, both illustrating aspects of Baker's life and work: "Portraits of Josephine" by flutist Coleman, and "La Belle Sirene Comme le Comedien" by the group's French horn player Jeff Scott, along with three of Baker's best known songs--including the show-stopper "Please Don't Touch My Tomatoes,"--arranged by Scott and performed with great gusto by vocalist René Marie. Executed flawlessly by the quintet, whose sound is supplemented by Tompkins as well as by extensive doubling--Coleman plays piccolo, flute and alto flute, Miriam Adam clarinet and bass clarinet, Toyin Spellman-Diaz English horn as well as oboe, and bassoonist Monica Ellis wields a mean soprano saxophone--the music is full of color, and soaked in the spirit of both Le Jazz Hot and early twentieth-century expressionism: Armstrong and Ellington via Stravinsky and Milhaud.
Strictly speaking, this is not jazz, but it is a major offering in the classical/jazz crossover genre that has been seeing more and more contributions recently, (even if jazzreview.com does not yet have a category for it!) The majority of these have tended to be by jazz players, the Marsalis brothers, Keith Jarrett and others, but recent releases by artists such as André Previn and Leanne Rees are beginning to restore the balance. Imani Winds are adding to this, performing and recording works by Paquito D'Rivera and Wayne Shorter; they are due to appear with Shorter at jazz festivals in Montreal, San Sebastian, Spain and Marciac, France this summer, as well as with the Brubeck Brothers Quartet at the Luzerne Chamber Music Festival. So the dialogue between jazz and ‘classical' or ‘serious' music, (or whatever it is called these days), is alive and well. And here is a great contribution from Imani Winds that jazz aficionados will certainly enjoy.