Matt Bauder And Day In Pictures—Nightshades (CF 289)
Matt Bauder is a man of diverse interests. A former student of Anthony Braxton’s, the reed player has reinterpreted doo–wop, explored the intersection of minimalist process music and improvisation and occupied the horn chair in Arcade Fire. If one thing ties together these endeavors, it’s his determination to respect what he is playing but not simply take it at face value. Bauder finds a way to put a very personal spin on whatever he plays, and that is just as true with jazz combo Day In Pictures. The quintet, which includes trumpeter Nate Wooley, pianist Kris Davis (replacing Angelica Sanchez), bassist Jason Ajemian, and drummer Tomas Fujiwara, takes the sounds and conventions of what was called modern jazz half a century ago and reconciles it with more contemporary elements.
Neither side subverts the other, and both get their due.
“Octavia Minor” kicks things off with a hell of a scenario. What if Ethio-jazz originator Mulatu Astatke had arranged and composed for Horace Silver in the mid-’60s? The rhythm section finds common ground between them right away, with Davis’s insistent left hand and short ascending figures introducing a sinuous twist to Ajermian and Fujiwara’s Latin-tinged swing. Bauder’s tenor comes in with a bent note so alluring you want to give it your wallet, then plays out a series of questing variations on the tune that seem to dance close to Davis’s accompaniment without ever quite touching. Further on, he restates the theme with a rough flutter that Wooley picks up and elaborates; the horn language says improv, now as forcefully as the harmonies and rhythms say Addis and NYC, then. The boundaries between decades dissolve.
One could count down the ways that post-micro-sound gets in bed with Blue note-vintage Wayne Shorter, and contemporary noise hooks elbows with funny hat-era Pharoah Sanders, but it would probably be more fun for you to play through the record and marvel at these resolutions of difference for yourself.
Or one could simply step back and admire the way rigorous execution and pleasurable expression become one throughout this marvelous album. No one is doing more these days to make accessible sense of jazz’s advances since the Eisenhower administration than this ensemble and Wooley’s similarly focused Sextet, which also records for Clean Feed. Next time someone questions jazz’s viability, play ‘em this.