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Joey Baron: We’ll Soon Find Out

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Drummer Joey Baron’s a more versatile percussionist than one might expect considering his reputation; he’s certainly earned avant-garde spurs for his work with the likes of John Zorn and Tim Berne, but he’s also turned in capable, sympathetic stints with Jim Hall and Toots Thielmans. Still, his Down Home CD surprised many fans a couple of years ago with its emphasis on midtempo grooves and a somber, rather than surging quality. We’ll Soon Find Out could be considered the sequel; Baron’s utilizing the identical personnel in his Down Home Band, featuring the invigorating alto saxophonist Arthur Blythe, chameleon guitarist Bill Frisell and remarkable veteran bassist Ron Carter. Baron penned all nine selections, mostly writing tunes that lack either simple rhythms or stark melodies. These aren’t tentative, detached numbers that won’t immediately bowl you over; Baron and company present music that’s equally cerebral and tasty, inventive, expertly played and nicely engineered, fully capturing the keen interaction between Carter, Baron and Frisell.

Frisell’s work should dispel lingering notions that he relies too much on sonics and theatrics. He can be elegant, fiery or understated, and his solos showcase a humorous side that’s evident on “Slow Charleston” and “Bit o’ Water” especially. Frisell’s an underrated acoustic player as well; the contrast makes for intriguing counterpoint, even though he plays it rather sparingly. Blythe has been a majestic alto soloist since his early days with Chico Hamilton; whether the situation calls for whirling lines and biting phrases, or reserved, measured statements, he injects dashing turns and sizzling lines. His playing adds fire to the date; Carter and Baron provide the cool tinges underneath. Baron’s Down Home Band eschews the rowdy approach in their playing; this date’s about atmosphere much more than mood. Yet it’s not so introspective the music gets boring. Rather, Joey Baron and the Down Home Band manage the tough task of going inside, while retaining their outside flair.