Matt Baker: Underground

Australian pianist-composer and recent New York City émigré Matt Baker surrounds himself with stellar talent on his fourth recording as a leader. With bassist Joe Sanders and drummer Gregory Hutchinson fueling the proceedings, he swings confidently on a rendition of Frank Loesser’s “If I Were a Bell” that is full of clever reharmonizations and hip syncopation. Trumpeter Jeremy Pelt and tenor saxophonist Dayna Stephens join the trio for Baker’s evocative, harmonically rich title track and his surging “Refuge.” Stephens also appears on the atmospheric “Island of Many Hills,” which has Baker switching to Fender Rhodes, and the tranquil “Away.” The threesome demonstrates seamless group chemistry on the delicate “Central Park North,” and on a startling 5/4 rendition of Duke Ellington’s “Mood Indigo.” Baker also flashes a sophisticated old-school touch on his solo piano rendition of “The Gypsy.”