Jim Baker | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Jim Baker


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Chicagoan Jim Baker's been most thoroughly documented as a pianist--he graces Caffeine's eponymous 1994 Okka Disk debut and lends his touch to the new record Birdhouse (also on Okka Disk), a powerhouse quartet session led by tenor saxophonist Fred Anderson. Anderson's weekly sessions at the Velvet Lounge have long relied on Baker to give the far-flung jamming a harmonic foundation; Baker's fascinating, tangled compositions also have been a feature of the group Steam--in which he also plies his piano--and his piano-centered set at the Chicago Jazz Festival this summer was a highlight. But listeners can't claim to have him pegged until they've heard him turn the knobs of an ARP 2600, the archaic but still-more-than-viable synthesizer on which he most frequently dials and deals. To hear him manipulate the analog monster (and other digital and electric gremlins) is an adventure in pure sound exploration and live electronic improvisation--he'll start with a simple unadulterated tone, then integrate, elaborate, extrapolate, and perhaps eventually defenestrate. The only available recording of Baker's ARP work is in a trio with reed player Ken Vandermark and multi-instrumentalist Daniel Scanlan, on Vandermark's CD Standards (Quinnah). This concert, a solo set exclusively based on electronics, offers an exceedingly rare opportunity to hear what Baker comes up with unbounded by others. Thursday, November 21, 9 PM, Urbus Orbis, 1934 W. North; 773-252-4446.


Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Jim Baker photo.

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