Mike Baggetta Quartet

Source Material
Fresh Sound New Talent FSNT 388

By Ken Waxman

Trying to forge a singular path with a saxophone-guitar quartet is the monumental task guitarist Mike Baggetta has set himself in this package of attractive originals. But Baggetta, who plays with everyone from trumpeter Tom Harrell to drummer Kevin Norton, and has recorded on-the-edge free improv with trumpeter Kris Tiner, appears content to stay within the parameters set by such reed-string teams as Vic Juris-Dave Liebman and Jim Hall-Sonny Rollins.

Still the source material of Source Material played by Baggetta’s working group of reed man Jason Rigby, bassist Eivind Opsvik and drummer George Schuller is too often low key. Although there are points at which the geometric arrangements recall the thematic repetition of early Carla Bley compositions, but as one mellow narrative follows another, the startling spikiness found in her work is never present and sorely missed. Schuller’s paced pops rarely upset the intensive interplay, nor do Opsvik’s solid thumps. Rigby’s well-modulated tenor saxophone trills sometimes suggest an updated Zoot Sims, especially when they connect in broken octave harmonies with Baggetta’s smartly paced licks, but most of the nine tracks drag at mid-tempos.

Breaking free from these moody, overly polite tunes filled with carefully positioned strums and vibrations, are a couple that impress with their speedy freedom however. For instance, “A Trust Issue” includes arpeggiated guitar licks, whose synced reverb links impressively with Rigby’s balanced timbres. Likewise “Momentum” is staccato and swinging with drum paradiddles, pats and ruffs and a secure walking bass line. Before Schuller’s cymbal resounding signals a unison guitar-sax head recapping, Baggetta again picks up the pace with slurred, nearly seamless runs which match the saxophonist’s upwards slurping trills and repeated pressurized snorts.

In this, their second outing, Baggett’s band members confirm their cohesion as a group as well as an ability to create a pleasant variant on the guitar-saxophone combo style. Hopefully though, the band’s next CD will be a bit less perfectly balanced and add some stimulating roughness to the program

Tracks: Tonic; Nathan; Liberty; Momentum; The Sky & The Sea; The Winter Moon; A Trust Issue; Projections; Camp

Personnel: Jason Rigby: tenor and soprano saxophones; Mike Baggetta: guitar; Eivind Opsvik: bass; George Schuller: drums

—For New York City Jazz Record October 2012