You can hear it loud and clear in his music: Dmitry Baevsky is here! The Russian born alto saxophonist has made quite a name for himself since immigrating to New York from his St. Petersburg birthplace nearly twenty years ago. Now a charter member of the world jazz community, Baevsky has proven himself to be a formidable force to be reckoned with, confirming his prodigious abilities in countless appearances with some of the music’s greatest artists. From his very first recording with NEA Jazz Masters Cedar Walton and Jimmy Cobb the altoist has shown himself to be an important new voice on his instrument. Possessing a robust sound, acute harmonic mind and keen sense of rhythm, the young horn man puts it all together in a manner that is appealing in its lyricism, yet intriguing in its originality.
On his four previous efforts as a leader Baevsky has appeared in the traditional jazz quartet/quintet configuration. On this fifth outing he has chosen to expose his talent to the greater scrutiny of the trio format. He explains, “A trio setting is just different. It makes me go places rhythmically, harmonically and melodically, that I might not go otherwise … it boosts creativity, and at its best the outcome can be rewarding to both the musicians and the listeners. The sound is so much more open, airy and even fragile. In a way it’s a dangerous place to be in; it puts more light on everyone, but if the musicians are good it’s a great way of showcasing their abilities that otherwise might be overlooked.”
The impressive skills of both bassist David Wong and drummer Joe Strasser are indeed on full display here. Baevsky notes, “I am very fortunate to know, play with and even be friends with these two guys. Their credentials speak for themselves, but I would like to add that they provide me with exactly what I need – real, super strong “New York” energy and sound, uncompromising swing and the willingness to support the soloist at the maximum capacity without sacrificing their identity. They’re real pros on the highest level possible, who also happen to be wonderful human beings that I can trust completely -- which is uber important. It’s like climbing a mountain – you have to have the complete trust and support of your team.”
The music Baevsky has chosen to spotlight the cohesive talents of the trio clearly reveals the depth of his broad knowledge of the jazz canon. He notes, “The repertoire is really important to me. I don’t choose songs because of some specific “significance” or “meaning” they have for me. I simply look for the best possible vehicles to improvise on; songs that have interesting harmonic, rhythmic and melodic things going on. Ones that will sound great, that will be appealing to both the audience and the band. And last but not least, that will inspire me.” Somewhat ironically, the songs the saxophonist has chosen to perform on this pianoless excursion are for the most part composed by or associated with some of jazz’s greatest masters of the keyboard.
The towering evergreen “Poinciana” that begins the date was of course popularized in jazz circles by pianist Ahmad Jamal’s classic rendition recorded Live at the Pershing. Ray Bryant’s soulful “Reflection” is best known for Phineas Newborn’s interpretation on the Roy Haynes album We Three. Monk and Duke are represented by the former’s “Brilliant Corners” and the latter’s “The Feeling Of Jazz” and “Tonight I Shall Sleep (With A Smile On My Face).” “Turquoise” is by the recently departed Cedar Walton (with whom Baevsky recorded and shared the bandstand for a week at Chicago’s Jazz Showcase). Walton’s spirit is also present on “Circus,” which was first widely heard on the Impulse album Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers! that featured the great pianist.
Baevsky even dedicates one of his three originals on the date to a pianist. He says, “ ‘Silver Screen’ is sort of a tribute to Horace Silver, thus the title. I just wanted to write something in that tempo - in between slow and medium - and Horace always wrote great things for this tempo. Sort of like his ‘Strollin’.” Dmitry describes his own “In the Know” as “a slightly different type of a tune.” He explains, “It has a lot of changes going by, which is something that I like to deal with and it has a rather unusual bridge, harmonically speaking.” Of the date’s title track the saxophonist declares, “I wanted to have something fast, but not too crazy fast, to play. I was looking for the right material, but nothing was quite clicking. At some point I came up with a simple melody that stuck with me and after a while I wrote a slightly more involved bridge. The song is rather standard in its nature and makes it a fun number to blow on.”
The disc closes with the standard “Stranger In Paradise.” Baevsky confesses, “The melody is inspired by Russian composer Borodin’s piece - so in a way it is a semi-hidden nod towards the place I come from….” When he first came to New York, Dmitry Baevsky (like most musicians from another part of the world) probably felt like a “stranger in paradise.” Today he’s no longer a stranger, but an integral part of the jazz capital of the world’s inspiring scene. You can hear why here. His message is clear. Over and out.
DMITRY BAEVSKY – alto sax
DAVID WONG – bass
JOE STRASSER – drums
01. Poinciana (Nat Simon)
02. Reflection (Ray Bryant)
03. Over and Out (Dmitry Baevsky)
04. Chega de Saudade (Antonio Carlos Jobim)
05. Brilliant Corners (Thelonious Monk)
06. The Feeling of Jazz (Duke Ellington)
07. In the Know (Dmitry Baevsky)
08. Turquoise (Cedar Walton)
09. Tonight I Shall Sleep (With a Smile on My Face) (Duke Ellington)
10. Circus (Louis Alter)
11. Silver Screen (Dmitry Baevsky)
12. Stranger in Paradise (R. Wright & G. Forrest)