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Thursday, August 15, 2013

Joey Baron - Just Listen (Relative Pitch, 2013) ****

By Stef   

In 2006 Jack DeJohnette and Bill Frisell issued "The Elephant Sleeps But Still Remembers", a nice album of guitar and drums interplay, led by a drummer, although suffering a little bit from a lack of musical coherence, ranging from clean - though adventurous - banjo playing to heavily distorted guitars and electronics, making the listener shift from intimacy to wall-of-sound approaches. 

This duo performance between Joey Baron and Frisell is of a different nature. Baron is the leader, as was the task of the performers at the Forum festival in Bonn, Germany, in 2008 : "the point of view is that of the drummer. The drummer's special musical form is the theme of the festival : structuring, refracting, driving, pulsing, grooving (most important, grooving)"

Baron was invited and asked Frisell to join him. And the result is one of those little gems of jazz. The music does not break boundaries, nor does it create subliminal listening experiences, yet the sheer quality of the playing, the incredible skills of both musicians, and the incredible joy resulting from the interaction, make this a wonderful album. 

The fun of the musicians is infectious and the audience reacts enthusiastically, as we all should. The first track starts with a duo improvisation that gradually shifts into Benny Goodman's "Benny's Bugle", indeed a real grooving tune that allows Baron to shine. Then, interestingly, the second track brings an almost avant-garde exploration for guitar and percussion, with light touches of sound percolating from space evolving into an abstract theme. 

Despite their excellent musicianship, both artists have this kind of natural sentimental mellowness in their compositions, which is usually not my kind of thing, but luckily they don't overdo it on this album. Yes, there is the slow "Mood" by Ron Carter, or a bluesy "A Change Is Gonna Come", on which Frisells turns this sweet tune into overdrive at the end of the track, yet it's intimate and straightforward (without the sugar and cheap sentiments).

The real treat is to be found in the more groovy tracks, like "Cherokee", or in Charlie Parker's "My Little Suede Shoes", on which Baron again demonstrates how subtle drumming can be. On the last track, Frisell lets go of the intimacy of the previous tracks and goes berserk on John McLaughlin's "Follow Your Heart", switching on all his pedals and turning op the volume for some boyish delight. 

Pure fun! Great fun!

The album can be bought from