Tom Baker Quartet

In a progressive jazz culture dominated by New York and Chicago, other towns with improvised music scenes tend to get the shaft. That's too bad, because pockets of experimental sounds — from Santa Cruz, California, to Montague, Massachusetts — continue to challenge and imbue eardrums. A perfect example is Look What I Found by the Seattle-based Tom Baker Quartet. Tunes like the seven-minute jam "Grace" — showcasing stretched-out clarinet solos by Jesse Canterbury, silvery-toned upright bass lines by Brian Cobb, and Greg Campbell's energetic and eclectic drum accompaniment — fuse free improv with traditional notations. Cuts such as "Waiting Room" act as abstract minimalist examinations and feature Baker's surrealistic guitar work, which is reminiscent of Jeff Parker's unforgettable riffs during Chicago's 2006 Umbrella Festival. But the album's most intriguing songs are the melodious compositions. "Free Steps" sounds like a journey through a bell/wind chime/percussion shop, layered with Baker's fretless guitar quotes that sound like a Theremin/slide whistle hybrid, while the little instrumentation on "Family of Four" gives a nod to Roscoe Mitchell's revolutionary 1966 avant-garde statement, Sound. Just because this creative jazz effort wasn't sculpted by NYC or Chi-town cats doesn't make it any less ear-worthy, so don't sleep on this highly recommended debut.

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