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

2017-10-13
Moonjune to Distribute Tony Levin's Back Catalog – It has been announced that Moonjune will now handle distribution for Tony Levin's catalog of releases. These great albums will now be a bit easier to get hold of, so check out the site and see what you're missing. The veteran of King Crimson and Stick Men worked with a host of great players on these albums, and we've reviewed most of them over the course of the years. » Read more

2017-09-26
Bandcamp Shines Light on Niches We Like – Bandcamp has developed into one of the best places to discover new music, and even a lot of old music is showing up there. In addition, their staff has been producing periodic articles spotlighting some interesting stylistic areas. On 20 September, they published one called "The New Face of Prog Rock" which bears checking out. » Read more

2017-09-06
Holger Czukay RIP – Holger Czukay, a musical experimentalist without boundaries who has been involved with expanding the sound palette of rock music since the late 60s, has died at the age of 79. After studying with Karlheinz Stockhausen in the early 60s, he became fascinated with the possibilities of rock music, and was a co-founder of the pioneering group Can. He leaves behind an impressive body of work both as musician and producer. » Read more

2017-08-22
John Abercrombie RIP – Another of the greats of jazz guitar has left us. John Abercrombie plied his way through a beautiful series of albums on the ECM label as well as bringing his talent to bear on albums by many of jazz's greatest artists. From his early work in the group Dreams to Gateway and outstanding work with Billy Cobham, Jack DeJohnette, Kenny Wheeler, and many more to his own trios and quartets, he brought a unique instrumental voice to the world. » Read more

2017-07-27
Yestival Dates Beef up the Beat – Word reaches us that Dylan Howe (son of guitarist Steve Howe) will be joining Yes on their "Yestival" tour, drumming alongside longtime band member Alan White. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Box of Crayons - Colorblind Chameleon – This one took me several listens before I could even begin to pin it down enough to write a review. Covering a wide spectrum of art rock, Box of Crayons are certainly interesting. Their starting point...  (1999) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues