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CD Review: Joel Baer - Structures



Joel Baer – Drums

Natalie Lande – Saxophones

Kenny Thompson – Guitar

Conor Roe – Bass

Self released

Chicago based drummer Joel Baer has assembled a dynamic group for his debut release, the captivating Structures. The vibrant music consistently engages as it shifts from darkly intriguing to languid and expansive, all the while maintaining a restlessly inventive edge and a definite melodic sense. Each of the seven pieces has its own singular flavor, yet all fit cohesively within the album’s overall concept.

The exotic and mystical “Persephone’s Dream” opens with saxophonist Natalie Lande and guitarist Kenny Thompson’s resonant and melancholic duet. The shimmering lines meander among Baer’s percolating rumble and bassist Conor Roe’s thumping reverberations. Lande solos with agility and lyricism, while Thompson plays chords that are intelligently angular and passionately emotive. After Baer’s visceral and thundering beats, collective poetic refrains conclude the tune. Lande showcases her virtuosity with a fast-paced and lithe improvisation on The Seatbelts’ effervescent “N.Y. Rush.” Thompson lets loose crisp and muscular phrase as Baer’s thrilling polyrhythms usher in a delightfully chaotic ensemble performance that is evocative of a rush hour melee. In contrast, starting with Thompson’s wistful strums, the bonus CD track, Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun” is languid and lyrical. Roe makes his instrument sashay as he joins Thompson and Baer for warm rhythmic refrains. Over these undulating vamps, Lande blows her tender and breathy tenor with just a hint of vibrato.

Elsewhere, King Crimson’s introspective “Matte Kudesai” opens with Baer’s expectant percussion and rustling cymbals and Roe’s simmering earthy tones. Lande contributes sparse and contemplative notes to haunting effect, while Thompson’s guitar echoes against the resounding backdrop. Each of the quartet members overlap their individual spontaneous expressions and create an ethereal and moving ambience. Baer and his collaborators, all young, up-and- coming artists on the Chicago scene, have recorded an impressive first work that crackles with creative energy. Hopefully more will come from this talented and exciting foursome.

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