One of New York’s Most Reliably Gripping Saxophonists Gets Busy Onstage This Month
With his misty tone and lyrical sensibility, alto saxophonist Dmitri Baevsky has been a fixture in the New York jazz scene and a prominent member of the various Mingus bands for the last several years. His latest album Soundtrack – streaming at Spotify – came out right at the tail end of the black hole that was the winter and spring of 2021 here and like so many other records from that time, didn’t get the exposure it deserved. Baevsky has a lot of gigs coming up around town. He’s at the Django leading a quartet on June 18 at 7:30 PM for $25. Then he’s at Smalls on June 24 and 25, with sets at 7:30 and 9:30 PM for the same cash price at the door.
The album is a mix of classics, a couple of standard ballads and a couple of characteristically tuneful originals showcasing Baevsky’s understatedly breathtaking technique: he makes those glissandos and slithery arpeggios seem effortless. He opens with a swing version of a well-known, wistful Russian tango by Vasily Solovyov-Sedoi, Evening Song, pianist Jeb Patton’s incisive chords and drummer Pete Van Nostrand’s lithely accented groove anchoring Baevsky’s meticulous, understatedly daunting articulation.
Baevsky kicks off Vamos Nessa, by Joao Donato with a ridiculously funny quote before tiptoeing his way over the rhythm section’s emphatic syncopation. The first of Baevsky’s two originals here is Baltiskaya, a good-naturedly lilting, vampy swing tune that gives him a long launching pad for exploration while bassist David Wong walks the changes.
Likewise, the group swing Sonny Rollins’ Grand Street matter-of-factly, downplaying the original’s stern gospel ambience: Van Nostrand’s counterintuitive flair behind the kit is one of the album’s consistently strong points.
Patton’s gritty, loose-limbed, bluesyh attack fuels the group’s take of Horace Silver’s The Jody Grind. La Chanson de Maxence, a Michel Legrand tune, is a fondly bittersweet tune and a prime example of Baevsky’s warmly cosmopolitan appeal.
Baevsky makes short work of the stairstepping staccato in Over and Out, one of his earlier compositions. They do Dexter Gordon’s Le Coiffeur as a light-fingered bossa; their take of Ornette Coleman’s Invisible is brisk and seems to be over in a flash.
Next up are a couple of familiar ballads. Autumn in New York has a matter-of-factly nocturnal sway, then the group toy with the rhythm in Stranger in Paradise, with a hint of a disquieting, Lynchian edge.
Patton’s longest feature here is a driving version of Ahmad Jamal’s Tranquility, with a surprisingly un-tranquil Baevsky solo. John Lewis’ Afternoon in Paris makes a carefree closer to an album that’s as good a makeout record as it is a party record.