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November 1997

Duck Baker
Spinning Song: Plays the Music of Herbie Nichols
Avant

Ace finger-picking guitarist Duck Baker has released one of the more exciting recent albums on the guitar scene, and its appeal goes beyond guitaristic aplomb. To name a couple of virtues: here is yet more persuasive evidence that the late, undersung jazz pianist Herbie Nichols, whose music is lovingly visited here, remains a jazz innovator deserving much broader attention; secondly, Baker's spunky fingerings and syncopated charms make a good case for the application of finger-picking versions of jazz material. At the suggestion-and with the label advocacy-of fellow Herbie Nichols champion John Zorn, Baker undertook the project of arranging songs by Nichols, who left a treasure trove of delightful oddities. The seductive angularity of Nichols' music, in tunes like "The Third World," "Lady Sings the Blues," and "2300 Skidoo," is reminiscent of Thelonious Monk's music, but with its own weird flair. As with Monk, a deceptive complexity is at work here, between artful "wrong" turns, harmonically, and riffs that work their way into your head, before your cognitive mind can identify them as illogical. Illogic rarely sounded so good, a subtext that Baker seems to understand fully.

Originally published in November 1997
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