Jamie Baum's reputation has been growing steadily over the last decade, primarily as a flutist, but also for her composition skills. Indeed, she has received a number of commissions to write works for her own groups, often a septet. Presumably, as on this occasion, economics will not always support the larger group in a club setting, leading Jamie to redefine her concept in a quartet context. The resulting loss in compositional dimension is offset by the greater exposure given to Jamie's flute work. Away from the thicker textures of the septet, but with the highly sympathetic support provided by the Timepiece rhythm section, the nuances in her flute work are more clearly revealed.
The set I caught on the Saturday night consisted of an interesting balance of original and standard material. It opened with "It Could Happen To You," although the arrangement transformed the piece to the extent that I took it to be an original based on the piece's changes. It was clear that the soloists were going to stretch out, beginning with the leader herself. Jamie has developed a style which is post-bop, and thus suitably abstract, without being as chromatic as, for example, James Newton. She also largely eschews the "extended" techniques adopted by some flutists to to add variety to the instrument's inherently small sound, depending more on variety in her melodic line, and a rhythmic attack that is essentially non"flutistic." She claimed to be a bit under-par as she was fighting a head cold, but she seemed to be in fine form--clear, direct, always inventive. Sharing the solo chores with Timepiece is pianist Roberta Piket who worked alongside Jamie in the all-woman quintet Sharp Five. She revealed herself to be a soloist of both breadth and depth with bunches of technique. Cameron Brown is a bassist with an enormous depth of experience, extending back to work with George Russell and Don Cherry in the mid-sixties. All of this was evident in his contribution; when the sound of a jazz group flows it is because of the bass player. This group flows. And Jeff Hirshfield, a highly in-demand drummer with a mastery of all the rhythmic and coloristic nuances this music demands, only adds to the coherence of the whole. And it doesn't hurt that he knows Jamie's music better than anyone, having worked with her on numerous occasions--oh yes, and it doesn't hurt that he is married to her!
All of these qualities were in evidence as the set unfolded. Next up was a Baum original, "The Far Side," built around a vamp that lent a a slightly hypnotic quality, followed by Piket's take on "Alone Together" called "Alone Alone." Brown contributed "Lullaby for George, Danny and Don" referring to members of the Don Pullen/George Adams Quartet, featuring Dannie Richmond with whom Brown worked for almost a decade. Jamie was featured on alto flute, which she retained on organist Larry Young's "Backup." Although it adds variety of sound for a flutist, the alto flute is considerably more difficult to attack in the same way as the regular instrument, and is often used on ballads, but Jamie put it to the service of this medium tempo blues to good effect, alternating blues licks with more abstract phrasing. Piket dug into the blues vein, coming on like Wynton Kelly or Junior Mance which created a really refreshing contrast to the group's predominant soundscape.
The last item in the set, Bill Evans' "Very Early," taken very fast in 4/4, was a tour de force for all concerned. I was sorry I couldn't stay for more but I am sure Jamie Baum and Timepiece will be back, or on record, soon. And it looks as though this was just one of a series of interesting performances this fall at Twins which has set up a partnership with veteran bassist and educator Reggie Workman who, through Reggie Workman's Sculptured Sounds, will be sending artists from New York to play at the club. I trust they will be of the same quality as Jamie Baum and Timepiece.
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