Jamie Baum Septet+
Thursday, September 20th, 8 p.m.| Kate Buchanan Room, HSU
"Always a traveler, never a tourist,..Everything connects here: concept and execution, soloists and ensemble, Nepal and New York, spirit and flesh."
—Michelle Mercer, DownBeat
When Jamie Baum began work on her sixth and latest album, Bridges, back in 2013, she had little idea how politically relevant its theme—the connection between seemingly distant cultures—would become. But cultural synergy is nothing new to the award-winning flautist/composer. For years she’s been building musical bridges between South Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and the Americas via her multitalented Septet+.
This band’s unique instrumentation, not to mention the protean skills of its members, allows Baum a broad composer’s palette. “I’m fortunate to get to play with such great players who can play anything,” she says. “I can really let my imagination fly.” As she built the ensemble that has been her muse for the last two decades, Baum’s goal was to explore “all of the possible pairings, colors, ranges, individual and instrumental idiosyncrasies” while maintaining a “seamless connection between the written material and improvisations, borrowing many of the compositional devices used in classical music while retaining the rhythmic pulse and open structure” that improvisers require.
The group’s earlier work, back when it was just a “Septet,” involved studies of Stravinsky, Bartok, and Ives. But tours of South Asia eventually inspired a departure beyond Western roots and an expansion of the band. “I couldn't help but feel the world would be a different place,” says Baum, “if everyone had the chance to travel so that the ‘unknown’ could become the ‘known’ and the ‘other’ could become someone you shared a beer with, played music with, or smiled at and acknowledged, even if you couldn't speak the same language.” The evolved group’s 2013 release, In This Life, which was heavily influenced by the late Pakistani Qawwali vocalist Nusrat Fateh Ali Kahn, garnered wide attention. Following up with a 2014 Guggenheim Fellowship, a commission from The Rubin Museum of Himalayan Art, and a stint at New Hampshire’s famed MacDowell Arts Colony, Baum researched and drew upon ancient connections between Jewish scales, Arabic Maqam modes, and South Asian music to compose what would become Bridges.
The centerpiece of the album is the three-movement “Honoring Nepal: The Shiva Suite.” A memorial for the victims and survivors of the catastrophic April 2015 Nepal earthquake, it’s not only a fine illustration of Baum’s wide-ranging compositional technique and the unassailable talents of her bandmates, but also a testament to the power of simple humanistic empathy. Whether she’s connecting the improvised to the programmatic, tradition to innovation, East to West, or individual to ensemble, Baum is adept at bridging our differences without blurring them. Her compassionate vision reminds us of our diverse roots of the human community, and of the harmony—however complex—we might seek. “I feel that in this time of great political and social divisiveness,” she says, “it is more important than ever to express those similarities that connect us.”
Baum has worked with a diverse array of modern jazz masters, from Randy Brecker, Tom Harrell, Kenny Barron, and Fred Hersch to Antony Braxton and Wadada Leo Smith. Her bandmates—Sam Sadigursky on reeds; Jason Palmer (subbing for Amir ElSaffar) on trumpet; Chris Komer on french horn; Brad Shepik, guitar; Luis Perdomo (sitting in for John Escreet) on piano; Zack Lober on bass; and Jeff Hirschfield, drums—could, says jazz writer Dave Sumner, fill a "future wing of the Jazz Hall of Fame."
Tickets ($15 General Admission, $10 Students & Seniors) are available here at our website and at People's Records, Wildwood Music, Wildberries, and The Works.
Jamie Baum and the band will also present an open, pre-concert public workshop at 1:00 p.m. Thursday, September 20th, in Room 131 of HSU's Music Building (entrance across the walkway from Fulkerson Recital Hall). People of all levels of experience are welcome to attend, and admission is FREE.
Words & Pixels:
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Audio (see also at left):
Thursday afternoon's free public workshop is made possible with support from Altus Flutes and through the generosity of HSU's College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences and the Department of Music.