Chase Baird – Crosscurrent – Junebeat Records

Chase Baird – Crosscurrent – Junebeat Records – 63:22 **** ½:

(Chase Baird – tenor sax; Julian Pollack – piano, keys; John Storie – guitar; Christopher Tordini – bass; Steve Lyman – drums; James Yoshizawa – percussion)

Chase Baird’s influences growing up were Gato Barbieri and Michael Brecker.  It appears he entered the world of music, building passion and innovation from what he was hearing in his young formative years.  In Chase Baird’s bio it states “By 14 he could replicate a technically daunting Brecker solo – spending months to transcribe and master it”. Baird had contact with Brecker by phone who suggested the next time he was playing in Salt Lake City where Baird lived they should meet.  At this meeting Baird told Brecker he listened to Gato, Coltrane, Henderson and to Brecker.  Baird’s life appears so full of accomplishments from a young age of ten learning to play alto saxophone and progressing to tenor saxophone.  He graduated from high school in 2006.  He began composing.  He relocated in 2007 to Los Angeles, California where he attended California State University Long Beach.  He studied music and psychology under a scholarship.  He also worked in cover bands and pit orchestras gaining experience as a sideman and multi-instrumentalist.  Baird has performed for audiences throughout the United States, Canada and Japan at venues including the Blue Note and the Montreal Jazz Festival.  He has performed with Randy Brecker, Terri Lyne Carrington, the Mingus Big Band, Tom Kubis, Kim Richmond, Roy Hargrove, Nir Felder, Julian Pollack, Steve Lyman and others.  Baird currently resides in New York City where he is a bandleader and sideman.  He plans to attend Juilliard School this fall 2011.

Crosscurrent is Baird’s debut album at age 22 as leader.  It is progressive jazz and quite a great presentation.  He has surrounded himself with dedicated hard working musicians of his age group seemingly with that desire to reach for more than the usual in jazz.  Baird’s playing and sound is very up front and descernable.  He composed seven of the nine songs.  The other two are well known ballads with this quintet’s touch on it.  

“Fifth Direction” is fast moving progressive jazz at its best.  Baird takes the lead on tenor saxophone for the first half of the tune augmented by the rest of group.  Julian Pollack comes in for about another quarter of the track on piano while Baird lies out.  Julian, with the bass player augmenting, plays some clever rhythm short changes then the whole group comes back together to finish the tune. The title track “Crosscurrent” is a slightly slower piece with a lot of voicing with the piano and embellishments from the bass with percussion adding a bit of a Latin sound.  There is much tricky rhythm changes as the tune continues which seems to be a constant with Baird’s composing.  You have to be really good at playing this type of jazz and they simply as a group are!

“What’s New”, a song written by Bob Haggart in 1938, was arranged by Baird.  He is very lyrical in his tone and playing this beautiful ballad.  “The Traveler” painted a sort of dimly-lighted trip in my mind with countering rhythms.  With the changing of generations in musicians this sounds what could be a future type of film noir sequence. I liked the sound of it with the musicians playing off each other.  “Cascade” is simply amazing.  Once I heard the song begin, it matched the title perfectly like water cascading down from level to level and dancing around obstacles.  “Dusk” has a feeling of the change from day to night.  It is a slower piece with bits and pieces of unison playing and the musicians playing off each other.  It is a beautiful tune.  “All of You” is a Cole Porter song.  Baird takes the lead after a brief intro and sets down the melody line.  Each of the musicians takes a solo while the others augment with Yoshizawa on percussion laying down a Latin rhythm.  It all blends well together.

The album contains extraordinarily good liner notes that tell the background of Chase Baird and a bit about the quality of the musicians who he works with and are well worth the read.  They are written by jazz critic and author Chip Deffaa.  The sound quality is excellent.  Chase Baird and his musicians are jazz’s future and well worth hearing.

TrackList:  Fifth Direction; Crosscurrent; Infinite Motion; What’s New; Lunessence; The Traveler; Cascade; Dusk; All of You

— Tim Taylor

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