Beware the Baker Thing
I’ve always some excuse as to why I’m not listening to more new music, and even though I of course am, I’ve still had the strong temptation to explore gaps in my listening history. Lots of work to be done on 80’s and 90’s, and the more I explore, the more I find plenty of 60’s acts escaped me. One that didn’t, though, was Cream, the first band I ever loved. I thoroughly excavated the solo works of each individual member, and it took my quite a while to track down every cut on Kazaa (remember Kazaa? of course you don’t) from Baker’s Air Force, a terribly recorded live performance by his supergroup at the notoriously difficult Albert Royal Hall. Despite the sound quality, I liked the album quite a bit, so hearing the similarities to Baker’s newest release was a pleasant surprise. With The Cherry Thing, I found myself drawn to the instrumentation more than the vocals, particularly on “Dream, Baby, Dream.” I’ll be writing about more jazz soon, as I keep finding interesting albums I don’t know what to do with.
GINGER BAKER – Why? (Motema): Seventy-four year-old curmudgeon who definitely doesn’t want you to remember him for his work in Cream drops his first studio effort in sixteen years. Why? Because he wanted to retry his hand at Air Force favorites “Aiko Biaye” and “Early in the Morning,” the latter disguised as the closing title track. Why? Because his osteoprotic hands haven’t tired of producing arpeggiated African rhythms, whether in reworking the modals “Ginger Spice” and Wayne Shorter’s “Footprints.” Why? Because in Baker’s own words, bassist Alec Dankworth is “a fucking genius” and saxophonist Pee Wee Ellis knows funk like his left hand, so working with them is play, not a job. So why bother with a South African geezer’s possibly last statement about jazz? No, really. Why? A MINUS
THE THING – Boot! (The Thing Records ’13): Between discovering Norwegian trio Moskus and hearing this Norwegian/Swedish group’s Neneh Cherry collab, I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for whatever else Scandinavian jazzsters pour out. Saxophonist Mats Gustafsson’s dirges gurgle and erupt, bassist Ingebrigt Haker Flaten provides an underlying rumble as loud as an airplane engine, and drummer Paal Nilssen-Love provides heavy-handed funk or flat-out madness. They blur the line between free improvisatory jazz and garage rock jamming, start with three-note runs and see how far they can stretch them, take Ellington standard “Heaven” and put it through their Thing transformer. Not for the faint of heart; their brashness and brazenness can wear you down all too quickly. A MINUS