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Thursday, October 6, 2016

Jackson/Baker/Kirshner – The Noisy Miner (Astral Spirits, 2016) ****

By Tom Burris

Recorded at Constellation in Chicago in November 2015, this trio consisting of Keefe Jackson (reeds), Jim Baker (piano/synth), and Julian Kirshner (drums) sounds like it's been together forever. The way they come barreling out of the gate, full of beauty and richness, on the first track, “These Trails Differ,” brings to mind David S. Ware's late 90s quartet – and they don't even build up to that. They start from there. Before this track is over, I also realize this may be the most confident I've ever heard Keefe Jackson sound.

Jackson opens “Sailing Stones, Sliding, Moving” with grunts and growls into the horn while Jim and Julian map out the course. Keefe beings playing notes and squealing, but stays in madman mode – eventually allowing that to dissolve into braying like a wounded animal. J & J build up again underneath him. That's the pattern of this conceptual work. Do it twice.

A strange thing happens about 5 minutes into “There Is No Fact, However Insignificant” where Jim and Keefe hold down notes, making it sound like the music has flatlined. It sounds a bit like something from the Hearts & Minds album – both bands have the same instrumentation in their line-ups – but J/B/K is much looser. There are times throughout where it is a bit difficult to distinguish between Keefe's horn and Jim's synth – and those are often times when Kirshner's playing propels the group into the stratosphere, conjuring up nothing so much as the label's name itself.