Tom Baker Quartet
Look What I Found
(Present Sounds Recordings)
Once again, I find something mysterious waiting for me inside my
mailbox. I have a look at the line-up appearing on the cover of the CD,
and I immediately fear the worst: here we have clarinet, double bass, drums and
guitar - and "jazz guitar" is far from being my favourite instrument!
Listening to the music, however, will present me with a totally different
panorama, showing an album that is really worth a listen. The four musicians
in the group (who, at least judging from the picture which appears on the
CD cover, are all thirty-something) are very fine players, definitely accustomed
to each other; all have a nice sound on their instruments, even if their
sound is not (yet?) easy to recognize as being "their sound" after
just from one note. Here are the names: Tom Baker on guitar, also fretless;
Jesse Canterbury on clarinet and bass clarinet; Greg Campbell on drums
and percussion; Brian Cobb on double bass.
CD features ten tracks: six compositions - four written by the leader,
two by the double bass player - and four improvisations; at first, I thought
it would had been better if those four improvisations had been left off
the CD, since I thought they diluted the whole: in fact, at more than 60
minutes, the CD is a bit on the long side, and though the music is never
really "difficult", nonetheless it requires one's complete attention
- and the home/cell phones switched off; but then I changed my mind: being
of the kind where players proceed by keeping in mind the whole picture,
the improvisations show a different side of the quartet, and so they definitely
make for a more varied CD.
sound of the album is very clear, at times almost austere, and this is
a good match for the melodies and the climates of this quartet. Spotting
specific influences is not easy: I'd say the guitarist has certainly listened
to the work of both Fripp and Frith, but it's entirely possible that he
has listened to some classical composers whom the aforementioned guitar
players hold dear to their hearts; in a similar way, the clarinet reminded
me more of Univers Zero than of any jazz, but this has probably more to
do with the instrumental pronunciation of this particular player than with
any other issue.
opens the album with a jerky theme, swinging but irregular; a spiky guitar,
"classical-sounding" clarinet; here I almost feared the apparition
of a "skronk" guitar; instead, we have a solemn clarinet, a guitar
playing arpeggios, and also clear percussion. Maybe there's something a bit
Fripp-like on the theme that opens Grace, with the clarinet interlocking
with/playing against the guitar; another theme follows, sounding a bit
"progressive"; then a guitar solo ending with chords, then a
"jazzy" clarinet solo.
by the double bass player, Family Of Four sounds a lot like classical music,
with a soft clarinet and a guitar in the background playing just one note
- quite weird!; then, we have a theme played unison by guitar and clarinet,
followed by an interesting development: first a double bass solo, then
very trebly-sounding percussion. Eight minutes that fly away in a hurry.
And Louis has an austere clarinet backed by drums played using brushes,
and a nice melodic/jazzy solo by the guitar with the double bass in a
"pedal" role. Free Steps starts with percussion, then a guitar
loop plus double bass harmonics which create something that to me sounded
quite similar to some atmospheres composed by Hugh Hopper on his album 1984;
over this "sonic landscape" we have a clarinet going from serene
to sad, then a feedback guitar though a volume pedal.
by the double bass player, Metamorphosis Happens has an unusual, interesting
unison of clarinet and guitar, which to me sounds as going through a (kind
of?) Whammy Pedal. Then we have a second theme, and then a third (sounding
almost like a boogie!); after various instrumental episodes, it's back
to theme one.
plus of the album is the fact that it keeps the listener guessing about
what's gonna happen next (even after a few listening sessions). There's
room for improvement, though: in my opinion, many compositions on the album
© Beppe Colli 2007
CloudsandClocks.net | Mar. 4, 2007