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Joey Baron: Down Home

With credits as diverse as Tony Bennett, Jay McShann, Philip Glass, John Zorn and the L.A. Philharmonic, drummer Baron draws from a wide variety of experiences in terms of playing and composition. Throw in his southern roots and the talents of alto saxophonist Arthur Blythe, bassist Ron Carter and guitarist Bill Frisell-who reconcile their musical differences with ease-and you get a set that uniquely grooves from start to finish.

The focus is funky blues for the most part, with the tunes (all Baron’s) ranging from sophisticated amalgamations of down home and up town elements (“Mighty Fine”) to simple vamps (“Wide Load,” “What”). Blythe plays both soulfully (“Mighty Fine”) and sublimely (“Little Boy”), while Frisell lends his characteristic multidimensional perspective, making up for the times when a more aggressive blues approach might have been more appropriate with his ensemble contributions and the singular way he integrates harmonies and single notes. Carter essentially fulfills the role of straight man, typified by his rock-solid line on “The Crock Pot,” a twisted blues that Blythe straddles with comfort and enables Frisell to strike a balance between tradition and the bizarre. Subtly creative, Baron’s exacting drumming provides a focal point, ensuring that his eclectic vision becomes a funky reality.

Originally Published