Saxophonist Chase Baird waited eight years to lead a session between his auspicious debut Crosscurrent and his poignant and expressive A Life Between. In the interim he has honed his already sharp improvisational skills and inventively seasoned his always mature writing. On this captivating album, Baird joins up with past collaborators and interprets all-original material that showcases his and his sidemen’s talents to the fullest.
A restless and expectant rhythmic rumble sets the tone for the gripping “Ripcord.” Baird blows warm and yearning phrases that reverberate with dark hues and passion. Pianist Brad Mehldau takes an imaginative and elegant solo before the ethereal, resonant ensemble performance closes the composition on a haunting note.
Equally dramatic and blazing hot is the riotous “Wait and See.” Opening with an exciting duet between Baird’s brassy tenor and drummer Antonio Sánchez’s booming beats, the piece progresses with a lean muscularity and lithe energy. Guitarist Nir Felder embellishes the melody with fiery lines and breathtaking agility, while bassist Dan Chmielinski extemporizes with deft lyricism.
There are sublime moments of contemplation and melancholy on the record as well. The title track features a wistful exchange between Mehldau and Baird that Chmielinski and Sánchez punctuate with sparse thumps and thuds. Mehldau contributes an emotive and sophisticated soliloquy that cascades effortlessly in crystalline tones. Baird and Felder’s poetic, inventive spontaneous dialogue further enhances this cinematic and nocturnesque ambience.
Perhaps the most intriguing and multilayeredtuneon this uniformly superb discis “In the Wake (of Urban Overdrive).” Fluid and mellifluous, itundulates with shimmering multi-instrumental lines that interweave over soft percolations of bass and drums. Baird showcases his brilliant virtuosity, expanding on the main theme with feeling and intelligence. Felder’s explorations simmer with passion, while bluesy hints pepper Mehldau’sintricate and delightful improvisation.
With A Life Between, Baird has produced a satisfying and charismatic work that, most importantly, is unique in style and singular its sound. The almost-decade gap between his releases has been definitely worth the wait; however,here’s hoping that the interval till his next CD will be shorter.