Jazz flutist Jamie Baum reaches beyond jazz to explore music from the Middle East and India | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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Jazz flutist Jamie Baum reaches beyond jazz to explore music from the Middle East and India

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New York flutist Jamie Baum embodies the title of her forthcoming album Bridges (due May 18 on Sunnyside) through a series of stylistic connections that bridge divides between Arabic, Indian, and Jewish music traditions and filter them through a jazz perspective. The recording, which is billed to her long-running Septet+, draws upon some of jazz’s most noted syncretists to help her achieve that goal, especially trumpeter Amir ElSaffar, who has a mastery of Iraqi maqam, and guitarist Brad Shepik, who deftly fused jazz and Balkan approaches in the group Pachora. Baum has previously worked outside of jazz on her own, including Septet+’s 2013 effort, In This Life, which was inspired by the great Pakistani qawwali singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan (a track on the new album called “Joyful Lament” is based on a melody the vocalist titled “Lament”). While pieces on Bridges such as “There Are No Words”—a springy, fusion-touched original with lyric, slaloming solos by Baum and the superb pianist John Escreet—make the leader’s jazz bona fides clear, the three-part Honoring Nepal: The Shiva Suite clearly shows how easily she can swivel between different worlds. That work was commissioned by the Rubin Museum of Himalayan Art, and Baum drew upon her experiences visiting and playing with local musicians in Kathmandu in creating it. According to her liner-note essay, the music attempts to celebrate the spirit those people displayed in the aftermath of the earthquake that devastated the region in 2015 by summoning the pan-Hindu deity of the title, “the destroyer of evil and the transformer.” For this rare Chicago performance Baum appears with the working band Short Stories, which places a greater emphasis on jazz than Septet+, with original tunes inspired by the succinct beauty in the compositions of Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, and Wayne Shorter. The group includes pianist Andy Milne, saxophonist Andrew Rathbun, bassist Joe Martin, and drummer Jeff Hirshfield.   v

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