Matt Baker: Underground
Label: Dot-Time Records
Performers: Dayna Stephens, Gregory Hutchinson, Jeremy Pelt, Joe Sanders, Matt Baker
Matt Baker: Underground
Matt Baker, Piano and Fender Rhodes
Joe Sanders, Double Bass
Gregory Hutchinson, Drums and Percussion
Jeremy Pelt, Trumpet
Dayna Stephens, Tenor Sax
|1||If I Were A Bell||3:12|
|5||Central Park North||9:48|
|6||Island of Many Hills||7:14|
Matt Baker is one of the most respected and versatile pianist-composers yet to come out of Australia. Classically trained, he's written for musicals and has toured extensively in concert in Europe, America and the East. Now resident in New York, he's immersing himself in the club scene there. For his own-label date (his fourth), he's assembled some of the city's finest for a programme of striking originals and a few unhackneyed standards. Opening with a very non-Red Garland workout on 'If I Were a Bell', he introduces guest hornmen Pelt and Stephens on the album's highlight, his original 'Underground', which wouldn't sound amiss on a record by Pelt's own group. Both horns remain for 'Refuge', while unassuming - and underrated - Dayna (who has just been signed by Criss Cross) stays on to add introspective tenor to two other tracks. Drummer Hutchinson features prominently in all the arrangements and apparently has been a big influence on Baker, whose mentors have included Mulgrew Miller, Benny Green and Aaron Goldberg. The non-originals include a very different up-tempo treatment of Ellington's classic, 'Mood Indigo' and possibly the first version of English songwriter Billy Reid's 'The Gypsy' since Dizzy Reece recorded it for Tempo in the mid-1950s. (There was also another version out recently by Ahmad Jamal!). On 'Underground', there's a definite nod towards Miles' 1960s quintet, but in complete contrast, on other compositions like the meditative 'Central Park North' which features Sanders and 'Island of Many Hills', Baker's playing sounds as though it belongs on ECM. An exceptional pianist, who is obviously determined to make it on the jazz scene.
Tony Hall, Jazzwise
Australian pianist-composer and recent New York City emigre 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 l 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 rendtion of Duke Ellington’s “Mood Indigo”. Baker also flashes a sophisticated old-school touch on his solo piano rendition of. “The Gypsy”.
Bill Milkowski, JAZZ TIMES, April 2012