Drummer Joey Baron has recorded with folks as divergent as Laurie Anderson to Chet Baker, and was a member of Bill Frisell’s group until 1995. Add to that a stint in John Zorn’s Masada, and you have a musician who is well traveled on some rather offbeat paths. On his new recording he is joined by his former boss Bill Frisell along with legendary bassist Ron Carter and one of the saxophones premier voices, Arthur Blythe. Baron’s style, both as a drummer and as a songwriter (he wrote the nine cuts found here) is less a leader than an enabler. He builds the ground floor and lets the others add the finishing touches — which this cast of players certainly can do. Carter plays the bass as only he can, with a subtle supporting voice, at times melodic, other moments bluesy. His tone is stellar throughout the recording. Arthur Blythe reminds us yet again why he has been regarded as a legend for decades — ideas and themes tumble from his horn as effortlessly as water tumbling over a rock. Never overplaying his hand, he meshes well with guitarist Frisell.
But of course, any record made with Bill Frisell is going to have one shining star, and that would of course be Frisell himself. Endlessly inventive, he plays everything from simple backing chords to jagged solos with entirely new methods and sounds. Quite literally he invents new places for a guitar to go — without the histrionics of rock or the never ending rehash of Wes Montgomery or George Bensonisms that seem to plague many modern jazz guitarists. He can go from distorted lines of angular melody to rich, full comping in the space of a few bars, seamlessly flowing from one mode to another without losing the listener. He challenges the listener to dig deeper, listen harder. It’s well worth the time.
Joey Baron seems to be both very active and blessed with good taste in sidemen. On this second release from these players (the first was Down Home in 1997), he has formed the basis for a hopefully long-lasting series of musical events. As long as the results are this satisfying, the jazz world will await future installments with eagerness.