Baker On A Roll As Her Eden Project Pays Tribute To Ed Blackwell At Brunswick

 LorraineBaker

Lorraine Baker recorded one of the season's freshest sounding releases with her Eden project, dedicated to exploring the unique legacy of maverick New Orleans drum supremo Ed Blackwell. As Blackwell was a relatively infrequent composer, she's picked selections from the back catalogue of his many illustrious employers – in particular artists like Mark Helias and Don Cherry, whose work explores the interface between groove, melody and freedom. Tonight's set kicks off with a solo intro from bass guitarist Paul Michael that bears a faint family resemblance to Stanley Clarke's 'School Days'; Baker leans into the kit, absorbed in the complex polyrhythms that were a Blackwell speciality, drawing all the colours out of the toms and cymbals, and Binker Golding lets fly with the first solo of the evening, his brawny tenor mixing some R&B inflections in among the hip modern language. Next it's guest John Turville on keys, showing why he's the first call for so many unusual cross-genre projects; his playing awesomely fluent, sensitive and imaginative, unbounded by cliche. Helias' 'Thumbs Up' gets a lively reading, and Cherry's 'Guinea' sees the band really getting into their stride, with Golding absolutely tearing it up and a wonderful, fleet-fingered solo from Michael full of elegant phrasing.

LorraineBaker 3.LWorms

The second set starts with Charlie Haden's 'Chairman Mao' – a pulsing one-note bassline sets the stage for wide-ranging explorations from Golding and Turville, before evolving into a groove akin to Herbie Hancock's 'Butterfly' – Karl Berger's 'Dakar Dance' features more bubbling polyrhythms with Michael assisting on extra hi-hat to allow Baker to roam free on a complex, melodic solo. This is a vision of groove-based jazz that doesn't feel obliged to eschew either melody or occasional forays into harmonic depth; the clattering, chattering drive of the kit, locked in with Michael's bass guitar, is at the heart of each track, but Baker is also a sensitive player and never swamps the soloist. Golding is best known for his commanding, strident duo act with Moses Boyd; a ravishing duet between him and John Turville on Helias' 'Pentahouve' shows his rarely revealed lyrical side, and his breadth and depth as a player is evident throughout.

All the band play the eclectic, unfamiliar material with total commitment and aplomb and Baker's playing, and her vision for the project, show a distinct personality. It's all the more unfortunate that the attendance on this dark, rainy November night is so skinny, and all the more impressive that the band still manage to deliver this exciting music with such conviction. The set closes with another joyous Cherry composition – 'Mopti''s uplifting Afro lilt sends those lucky enough to attend out into the night well satisfied.

– Eddie Myer
– Photos by Lisa Wormsley 

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