Album Review: Lorraine Baker’s Eden – Spark!

Lorraine Baker’s Eden

Spark!

(Spark006)

 

Here’s something new – a young drummer leading a tribute to veteran New Orleans sticksman Ed Blackwell, with a band that features streetwise new-thing iconoclast Binker Golding alongside long-established, critically acclaimed pianist and mentor Liam Noble, with feisty newcomer Paul Michael providing tough, imagnative basslines and credited with key input to the arrangements. The results are immediately arresting, with Baker’s punchy, assertive intro leaping into the twisting rhythmic variations of Dakar Dance, and thence to Thumbs Up, with a beguiling mix of chords on the bass guitar and afrobeat flavoured groove underpinning stark pentatonic riffing. Just when you think you’ve got the track’s measure, it breaks down to a duet between Golding and the ever-resourceful Noble, before building back into a wonderfully melodic solo from the leader that retains the lilting time feel, even with the surprise addition of dubwise studio effects. Pentahouve casts the net of inspiration wider to include a melody by free-improv stalwart and Blackwell associate Mark Helias; the Blackwell link is made even more explicit in a version of Coleman’s Blues Connotation that explodes into hard driving swing after it’s edgy, M-Base style intro; Chairman Mao has a dub reggae feel, the whole band combining into abstract rhythmic textures, and Mopti has more pentatonics over an afro 12/8.

Baker’s style on kit is already recognisable and distinctive enough to tie the album together – a warm, relaxed but driving groove, spread out across the entire kit so that toms and side stick are fully deployed for maximum melodic content – Blackwell would surely have recognised a kindred spirit. Golding really shows his range and power as an individual voice as well, with an edgy assertive tone that can be tender as well, and a fertile melodic imagination underpinned by sophisticated harmonic ear that isn’t always apparent in his acclaimed duo performances with Moses Boyd. Noble’s presence adds an extra layer of depth, gravitas and resonance throughout; while he may be associated with an older generation of the jazz establishment, and Golding by contrast with the New Thing, this recording demonstrates what a remarkable pair of unclassifiable musicians they are, and how compatible. This debut manages to avoid the cliches of both the old guard and the new school – while the compositions are sometimes slight, there are a plethora of signposts pointing in all kinds of intriguing directions that make this one of the most arresting debuts for a long while. Catch the band live on tour this autumn. 

 

Eddie Myer