Matt Baker – Underground (2011)

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If pianist and composer Matt Baker’s new recording has the tempo and feel of a jet-set traveler, there’s a reason for that: Baker, an Australian native, has kept busy since moving to New York City in mid 2010 — playing a series of well-received engagements at jazz venues like Smalls and the Zinc Bar, among others, having already performed at an impressive number of festivals (including a two-year stint as house band at Montreux) and concert halls from his home country and the Pacific to Europe and the states.

That globe-spanning time in the woodshed has helped shape both his own jazz voice — five of the tracks on Underground, to be issued Nov. 22, are originals — even while it’s imbued him with an inspired approach to songs from the canon.

Baker, along with a group that includes drummer Gregory Hutchinson, approach Duke Ellington’s “Mood Indigo,” Billy Reid’s “The Gypsy” and Frank Loesser’s “If I Were A Bell” with a memorably impish enthusiasm. The album also features Joe Sanders on the double bass, Jeremy Pelt on trumpet and Dayna Stephens on tenor. Together, they help fashion seamless transitions from there into intriguing originals like the turbulently propulsive “Refuge” and “Central Park North,” which boasts a touching, twilight poignancy.

On his fourth album as a leader, Baker unpacks just long enough to deeply impress.

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Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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