Their first appearance back in New York since an extensive Australian Tour, Jazz pianist Matt Baker teams up with the sensational Endea Owens and Henry Conerway for their Iridium debut. The Trio will present music from Baker’s new album ‘Almost Blue’ – a “fully realized love letter to the place he longed to be a part of, a place he now calls home”, each song emanating a part of the albums haunting narrative. The show also features some brand new repertoire, including selections from the 20th century pop and Great American songbooks: a swinging program of jazz with a contemporary edge.
Pianist Matt Baker’s new recording, Almost Blue (via JazzElm Music), is his fifth as a leader, but only his second since 2010 when he moved to New York City from Sydney, Australia. Baker abandoned a comfortable career to position himself in the pool of big fish who leave an international array of smaller ponds to test their mettle in the jazz capital. That it was a wise decision is evident: Now approaching 40-years-old, Baker—well-known in Australia and Europe during the ’00s for an approach deeply informed by Oscar Peterson, his idol and first influence in matters of intention, execution and time feel—interacts seamlessly with young New York A-listersLuques Curtis on bass and Obed Calvaire on drums. Master guitarist Lage Lund augments the unit on six selections, while formidable tenor saxophonist Joel Frahm projects his singular instrumental voice on three.
The intersection of Baker’s musical and personal journeys in New York is the subject of the 14-tune program, which Baker and eminent producer Matt Pierson culled from the Great American and late 20th Century Pop Songbooks. “I chose these songs because of their lyrics,” Baker says. “Each one represents a certain place in my life during the period that led up to the recording. They convey the album’s narrative, and have equal weight as pieces in the story.”
Speaking of narrative, Baker sings on three selections, presenting his vulnerable emotionally connected Voice on the title track by Elvis Costello; Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson’s “Wouldn’t It Be Nice;” and Canadian singer-songwriter Ron Sexsmith’s “Foolproof.”
Among the instrumental highlights are a beautifully re-harmonized, bittersweet trio rendering of “I’ll Be Seeing You” on which Baker displays his contrapuntal prowess; a mellow, melancholy interpretation of “The End Of A Love Affair”; a stick-to-the-melody version of Jim Webb’s “Didn’t We”—again showcasing the pianist’s mighty left hand—that puts a bright spin on giving a relationship a good shot but not quite getting there; and a stark “In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning” that palpably brings forth the emotions attendant to, as Baker puts it, “lying in bed late at night, looking out the window, hoping this is the night when she’ll call.”
In 2016, a worldwide audience can witness the fruits of Baker’s New York R&D as he supportsAlmost Blue with a new trio, including Ahmad Jamal alumnus James Cammack on bass, and the crackling young drummer Darrian Douglas. “I feel that Darrian, James and I create whatever it is we do—various meters and rhythmic ‘complexities, harmonic development, textural development—in the moment together,” Baker says.
“The Australian piano whiz..” -Stephen Holden, The New York Times, Oct 2014
“Baker has a playful approach to melody, particularly on the standards that he interprets with Joe Sanders and Gregory Hutchinson.”
-Shaun Brady, DOWNBEAT Magazine, March 2012