Nothing about this music composed by Jamie Baum is conventional; this is plain to see, so to speak. But because much of this music also comes from cultures that are not even remotely close to her own and yet this music succeeds in inhabiting them – be they Islamic or Hindu and by association, Arabic, Turkish, Azeri, Nepali and Indian – this effort from her on Bridges must be regarded as truly remarkable as the music succeeds magnificently in the setting of themes, details in modes and the manner in which it stands conventional collisions within the broad swathe of its cultural topography on its head.
Incandescent, profoundly human and intoxicating in its celebration of the world of nature and of birth and re-birth in the context of Judaic-Islamic-Hindu relationship with the Divine Bridges by Miss Baum is demanding of herself and of performers requiring special treatment at every turn. Miss Baum’s interpretation of this Judaic-Islamic-Hindu spiritual relationship with the secular by focusing on the life-affirming qualities of the music, rather than going in search of more ceremonial aspects of each musical culture is utterly unique and affecting. Her pleas for understanding of loss and death, and for rebirth in “Song without Words (For Seymour James Baum) and in the “The Shiva Suite”, “Joyful Lament” and “Mantra” are subsumed by nuanced emotion, have a genuine urgency and when they must be – as in the case of “Renewal” both sad and infectiously joyous.
Especially noteworthy is that throughout the music is rhythmically crisp and unfailingly responsive, most effectively in the dramatic twists and turns of “The Nepal Suite”. This is a monumental orchestral work. It shows off her ability to create rich orchestral tapestries while conjuring ever so vividly not only the desperate and dire consequences of the 2015 earthquake in Nepal but also narratives of human triumph. The ensemble’s playing is superbly supple in externalising as well as internalising the drama; rarely can one truthfully say that one has heard a more compelling performance relating to a turbulent time and the triumph of human endeavour rendered in music. This is all the more poignant as the darkness makes way for light in the profound conclusion of the suite.
Miss Baum’s playing is simply stunning. Her ability to render real events and emotion with tone-colour so vivid is breathtaking. Her tempos are sedate or brisk as the narratives demand and the sound in ensemble is never congested. Soli are aided by exemplary orchestral articulation, care for instrumental detail and some wonderful piano, brass, woodwind and rhythmic playing on the part of each of the musicians responsible for their respective chairs. Vocal contributions are perfectly placed. John Escreet’s pianism is particularly radiant and the contribution from Sam Sadigursky is resonant and dramatically compelling. Above all, the performers respond to Miss Baum wholeheartedly and in a way that communicates her vision and artistry with captivating beauty.
With all of these aspects of the music coming together with such open-hearted intensity in a recording that captures every nuanced detail of this performance this makes for a musical adventure that mixes wild mystery with coruscating brilliance.
Track list – 1: From the Well; 2: Song without Words (for S. James Baum); 3: There Are No Words; 4: Honoring Nepal: The Shiva Suite: Part 1 – The Earthquake; 5: Part 2 – Renewal; 6: Part 3 – Contemplation; 7: Joyful Lament; 8: Mantra; 9: UCross Me
Personnel – Jamie Baum: flute, alto flute and singing bowl; Amir Elsaffar: trumpet and voice (2); Sam Sadigursky: alto saxophone and bass clarinet; Chris Komer: French horn; Brad Shepik: guitar; John Escreet: piano; Zack Lober: bass and singing bowl (4); Jeff Hirshfield: drums; Special Guests – Jamey Haddad: percussion (1, 5, 6, 9); Navin Chettri: percussion, voice and tanpura (7, 8)
Released – 2018
Label – Sunnyside Records
Runtime – 59:41