Exposé Online banner

Tom Baker Quartet — Look What I Found
(Present Sounds PS0701, 2007, CD)

Tom Baker Quartet — Save
(Present Sounds PS0902, 2009, CD)

by Jon Davis, Published 2013-05-29

Look What I Found Cover artSave Cover artFretless bass guitars have been pretty common since the 70s, but fretless guitar is hardly ever encountered. I suppose that's because guitars are frequently called upon to play chords, and it would be nearly impossible to play more than three strings together on a fretless instrument and keep all the notes in tune. Tom Baker's primary instrument is fretless guitar, and it's no surprise that chordal playing is not central to these recordings, though you'll hear some. Baker is joined by Jesse Canterbury on clarinet, Greg Campbell on drums, and Brian Cobb on upright bass. Look What I Found starts out with "Swampled," with a great off-kilter head with a jarring guitar melody, then a middle section of wandering clarinet phrases and sparse cymbals backed by quiet guitar. The guitar, now modified by distortion, takes over for the second half of the middle section with a lyrical solo. The improvisational side of the group dominates much of the rest of the album, though many of the tracks have signposts along the way for the players to orient by. When they go completely free, as on "The Waiting Room," they tend to be more atmospheric than confrontational, though dissonance and non-musical tones aren't avoided. This is not noisy, angsty improv; the mood is reflective and a touch melancholy. Campbell has a real talent for setting moods using an array of metal bits and pieces that augment his kit effectively. The use of space is very important here. Of course, a fretless guitar is ideally suited to glissandos between notes, but Baker uses them sparingly, avoiding any gimmicky pseudo-Arabic lines. His playing is refreshingly free of cliches and guitarisms, and while he does use a variety of effects devices, they're relatively unobtrusive - no space echoes or looping. And he does the volume-pedal (or -knob) ambient washes without sounding like Bill Frisell. Save finds the same cast of characters in a somewhat more energetic mode. There's still a lot of attention to space, but fewer moments of outright quiet. And I may be imagining this part, but it seems the role of the bass is a bit more prominent. In short, while this music is clearly jazz, and uses a lot of the methods of jazz (establish a theme, improvise, restate the theme), it doesn't fit any of the established streams of jazz. But then, one could also say that it is the nature of jazz to not abide by too many rules. Both of these releases are excellent, but I'd give the edge to Save - the pieces seem to better tell their stories, perhaps because the musicians had been working together longer. Finding unknown treasures like this gives me hope for music. What passes for jazz on major labels is mostly backward-looking and tame; Tom Baker and company prove that there is another path.

Filed under: New releases, 2007 releases, 2009 releases

Related artist(s): Tom Baker

More info
http://http://tombakerquartet.bandcamp.com/

Latest news

2017-05-19
First ProgStock Festival Set for October – October 2017 will see the inaugural edition of a festival called ProgStock in Rahway, New Jersey at the Union County Performing Arts Center. With a definite slant towards neo-progressive music, the event is sure to please many fans with the inclusion of such artists as Echolyn, Glass Hammer, and Aisles. The festival will take place October 13-15. » Read more

2017-05-05
Clive Brooks RIP – Word reaches us today of another sad passing in the music world. Drummer Clive Brooks, best known as a member of such Canterbury bands as Egg, Uriel / Arzachel, and Groundhogs, has died at the age of 67. Details are sketchy at this point. The news was reported on Nick Mason's Facebook page — Brooks was Mason's drum tech. » Read more

2017-05-02
Col. Bruce Hampton RIP – The phrase "He died doing what he loved" is almost a cliche, but in the case of Col. Bruce Hampton, it couldn't be more true. Hampton, who was born Gustav Berglund III, collapsed on stage at his own 70th birthday celebration and later passed away. The event took place at the Fox Theater in Atlanta. » Read more

2017-04-16
ProgDay 2017 Announces First Bands – Flor de Loto, Sonar, and Infinien are the first three performers to be announced for the 2017 edition of the long-running ProgDay Festival. The 23rd ProgDay takes place Saturday and Sunday, September 2nd and 3rd, at Storybook Farm in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. » Read more

2017-04-16
Allan Holdsworth RIP – Surely in the list of artists who have contributed to the sound of modern music, there is a special spot for guitarist Allan Holdsworth. His name is known to virtually every student of the instrument in jazz and rock, and his style has been so widely emulated that it's hardly worth mentioning anymore — we can just assume that every guitarist has Holdsworth as an influence. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Yes - Songs from Tsongas – Yes' management has done a pretty good job documenting the various incarnations of the group since the botched Keys to Ascension reunion shows from 1996. Ensuring the classic line-up was intact was...  (2007) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues