For many, religion is the most divisive of matters. For flutist-composer Jamie Baum, however, it turns out to be the ultimate unifier. On this fourth album from her expandable septet, Baum explores the musical common denominators beneath different ancient belief systems. Offering touches of modernization while remaining steadfast in honoring core values, Baum creates a world where sonic and spiritual resonance rest on an even plane.
Opener “From the Well” serves as the prime example of the merger between forms within faiths. Baum’s band works with a scale endemic to Jewish, Maqam and South Asian music, a lingua franca that instantly eradicates boundaries. All becomes one as jostling grooves support alluring explorations. A midtrack melee ensues, giving trumpeter Amir ElSaffar his day, but the music coalesces as it builds back toward its conclusion. Even in its most unsettled state, there’s a pronounced sense of purpose lighting the way.
[Read Zach Hindin’s Overdue Ovation profile on Jamie Baum.]
As the program continues, Baum links the personal and the universal. First there’s the comforting coupling of “Song Without Words (for S. James Baum),” an introspective work dedicated to her late father, and “There Are No Words,” a general reflection on loss. Then comes Honoring Nepal: The Shiva Suite, a three-part work inspired by a painting of the titular pan-Hindu deity; “Joyful Lament,” a riveting showcase for guitarist Brad Shepik that nods toward the late Qawwali icon Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan; and “Mantra,” an open-air meditation on revitalization focusing on Navin Chettri’s vocals.
The end of this road—the hypnotic-turned-grooving “UCross Me”—is a fitting summation that points toward an all-embracing spirit. There’s clearly no chasm too wide for Jamie Baum to cross.
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