Dmitry Baevsky is more than an expert swinging saxophonist and composer. He’s also a compelling musical storyteller, completely adept in all the languages of jazz. His new CD, SOUNDTRACK, is pleasing on several levels.
For years now, I’ve thought the terms, “Modern,” “Classic,” “Traditional” were spectacularly useless when describing the music I and others cherish: they were words to suggest primacy, superiority; words beloved of journalists and promoters. So I won’t diminish this restorative new CD by tagging one of those obsolete labels to it. I will simply say that it pleases the ear on multiple playings, and each time I hear it I come away with a feeling that Dmitry, Jeb, David, and Pete have important yet light-hearted things to tell me and other listeners. That’s precious.
Here’s a series of small tastes, full of brightly-colored energy:
On one level, this is musical autobiography — Dmitry is no newcomer and this is his ninth CD — that takes us along with him, from Saint Petersburg to New York to Paris. But fear not: this is not a series of musical snapshots, their meanings only fully evident to the photographer. Dmitry has chosen works by Rollins, John Lewis, Ornette, Ahmad Jamal, Vernon Duke, Dexter Gordon, Horace Silver, and the composers of KISMET. So it isn’t inscrutable postmodernism: “This composition of mine is what I play when I think about my first club date in Greenwich Village,” and each of the songs has a particular flavor, and each is given a tender yet rhythmically alert treatment. The liner notes by Dmitry, which are fascinating on their own, detail the connections between the peregrinations of a traveler and the growth of an artist.
Here’s something pretty, lyrical, and swinging — STRANGER IN PARADISE:
And AUTUMN IN NEW YORK:
Lest you think this is simply a CD of standards taken at moderate tempo, here’s Dmitry’s own OVER AND OUT:
If you want to play the game of WHO DOES HE SOUND LIKE, I leave such capers to you. All I know is that Dmitry has clearly studied both the music in back of him and those melodies yet to be created: he embodies a tradition with its nose to the window, looking to see what’s next. A nimble player with beautiful articulation, he is deeply in love with sound, song, and rhythm. Thus he can be sweetly lyrical on a ballad or ride the rhythm expertly, both following it and propelling it. And each performance has its own quiet drama: Dmitry, encouraged by his brilliantly cohesive bandmates: Jeb Patton, piano; David Wong, string bass; Pete Van Nostrand, drums.
When I first received this CD, I put it in the player without reading the liner notes, and I was entranced by the variety of colors and suggestions. Later, I read the notes and understood it as (in some ways) program music, but I kept going back to the sounds themselves. I think you will, too. You might know the story of Sonny Stitt, on the Jazz at the Philharmonic bus, going up and down the center aisle, playing everything he knew — and that was a great deal — until Lester Young said to him, “That’s very nice, Lady Stitt. But can you sing us a song?”
Lester would have smiled at the songs Dmitry and friends create.
May your happiness increase!