When one thinks of the flute, pastel tones come to mind conjuring up images of fluttering winged creatures and dancing figures belonging to the fae world. Jamie Baum is a flutist who plays many more shades than the instrument’s pastel spectrum. Her palate delves into amber and cider tones as well as mossy hues and burgundy tints. She embraces the earthy colors of the flute and swirls them around the vibrations of her septet, which consists of Ralph Alessi on trumpet, Vincent Chancey on French horn, George Colligan on piano, Jeff Hirschfield on drums, Johannes Weidenmueller on bass, and Douglas Yates on saxophone and bass clarinet, for her latest album Solace from Sunnyside Records. The compositions here and there tumble down like an mammoth avalanche, while on other turns the horns sustain energetic twittering motions in the air as the meandering piano keys display a mind of their own. There are many free-style expressions, avant-garde clips, and ornate combinations of riffs trading off with each other to take the top seat of the upper register.
At times, the harmonies are a mish-mosh of chords coming at each other from different angles, while at other times the chords move along the same path as a consolidated unit. Baum’s compositions show individuality and an independent mind that moves to the beat of odd-time signatures. Sometimes the music feels eerie like on "Questions Unanswered," and sometimes the music has a soothing feel like in the title track "Solace." The compositions showcase all of the instruments one by one on the upper register with equal representation so no one feels left out. With interchanging variables, titillating pirouettes, and quick-footed dynamics, the music remains in a constant state of flux like a volatile solution.
The album seems equal to a chemistry experiment as much as it is a display of expressive and ingenious pieces of avant-garde jazz. The myriad of multiple rhythms, counter melodies, and prismatic tones colliding and swirling around each other are some of the axioms administered to Baum’s compositions. The album shows tension in one stanza and then calmness in the next, unbridled energy counter-balanced by sleekly cropped notes. Solace is an an album that breaks all the rules and shows that amidst the chaos is unity and room for everyone to thrive.
Baum received her BM degree from New England Conservatory and her MM from Manhattan School of Music in Jazz Performance and Compositions where she now teaches. She has toured the US, Japan, South America, South Asia, and India. She has been a US Jazz Ambassador going on tours in 1999, ‘01, ‘02, and ‘03 put together by the US State Department and Kennedy Center Jazz Ambassador Program. She says about Solace in a recent press release, "I’ve been fortunate to hear and play with many great musicians both in New York City and abroad.... I’m sure that they are all in here, somewhere."