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Dmitry Baevsky: Over and Out

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There are now more important jazz musicians who hail from outside the continental U.S. than ever before. Take alto saxophone players. Two of the best, Francesco Cafiso and Miguel Zenón, are from Italy and Puerto Rico. Tineke Postma and Mattia Cigalini, from the Netherlands and Italy, belong on the list. So does Dmitry Baevsky, originally of St. Petersburg, Russia, now of New York.

Baevsky has chops that make other alto players consider finding another town. His extraordinary facility creates a sense of perfection in his solos, including those at very high speeds. The upside is that everyone appreciates a musician who makes hard things sound easy. The downside is that, since Baevsky is a logical and relatively conventional thinker, his music can lack the edge of win-or-lose risk that makes jazz exciting. Despite (or perhaps because of) his sheer competence, he can come off as predictable.

Over and Out is a recital. For the first time on record, Baevsky is alone with bass (David Wong) and drums (Joe Strasser). That his rhythm section players are unexceptional soloists is not a problem. Baevsky fills the trio’s open spaces with voluminous alto saxophone intricacy. One reason the album feels like a recital is the repertoire. With obligatory thoroughness, Baevsky covers the bases: Ellington. Jobim. Monk. “Tonight I Shall Sleep (With a Smile on My Face),” “Chega de Saudade” and “Brilliant Corners” are very different tunes. They are fed into the saxophonist’s creative process and come out as comparably meticulous Baevsky designs. The most intriguing track is an odd choice, “Stranger in Paradise.” The song’s normal bombast is modulated into oblique understatement.

It could be very interesting to hear Baevsky on a project that forces him out of his comfort zone.

Originally Published