Matt Bauder is one smart saxophonist. He has reliably brought himself to projects led by Anthony Braxton, Bill Dixon and Rob Mazurek, among others, and works regularly with Taylor Ho Bynum, Harris Eisenstadt and Aaron Siegel. And bringing oneself means more than just showing up. Bauder has a warm, round tone on the tenor and even softens the clarinet's edges. He's maybe even a little romantic for some of the conceptualists he hangs out with (he's closer to Bynum in that regard), but he consistently finds a place for himself, neither fitting too much in or too much out.
Bauder has flirted with doo-wop and minimalism in the past, but Day in Pictures is squarely jazz. Not even that mad-free-scream-at-the-sun-and-then-howl-at-the-moon improv stuff. This is jazz jazz. Some Sonny Rollins here, some Oliver Nelson there. Yeah, Bauder's a smart cookie.
On board for the effort are trumpeter Nate Wooley, pianist Angelica Sanchez and drummer Tomas Fujiwara, representing Bauder's current NYC stead, and bassist Jason Ajemian from Bauder's former Chicago grounds. They pull it off with aplomb, intuitively playing the more involved arrangements, ably slinking into the hushed ballads.
In the circles of some of the conceptualists he's hung out with (or at least among their audiences), there are concerns and questions about pushing the music forward versus repeating the past. There's nothing particularly forward-looking about Day in Pictures. And that can be a problem — when the music isn't this good, anyway.
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