Keefe Jackson/Jim Baker/Julian Kirshner

April 26, 2023

Kettle Hole Records KTHL 008

While this Chicago trio may advertise they’re playing routines, there’s certainly nothing routine about this disc. Windy City veterans, saxophonist Keefe Jackson and keyboardist Jim Baker, who during their varied careers have played with everyone from Fred Lonberg-Holm to Fred Anderson, have put together a well-matched trio with younger drummer Julian Kirshner.

With Baker concentrating more on synthesizer than piano, the galvanizing tracks usually work through a strategy that has his processed trebly tones juddering intermittently alongside or doubling Jackson’s reed extensions on tenor or sopranino saxophone. Encompassing straight lines as well as more commonly metallic tonguing, ney-like altissimo cries and affiliated trills, Jackson’s protracted note examination as well as Baker’s mechanized smears are further shaped by Kirshner’s press rolls, rim shots and clip-clop nerve beats.  “…Scene” is an illustrative instance of this, as dissected reed split tones and keyboard vibrations energetically inflate the sound to near-screams, but always avoid a descent into hysteria.

Bookended by the introductory “More or Less” and the concluding “Realistically”, both of which begin with drum clip-clops and air slowly pushed out of the saxophone, these seven improvisations maintain consistency. Regularly, Baker’s winnowing voltage flutters and Kirshner’s grounded ruffs both settle and intensify the pieces. That still leaves enough space for Jackson’s reed prowess that includes caustic and strident smears on the first tune and inflation to circular breathing on the last. If the improvising heard here is thought of as everyday practices by the trio members, judging by the musical skill exhibited, imagine to what heights their out-of-the-ordinary playing would entail.

–Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. More or Less 2. Familiar 3. Daily 4. …Scene 5. Accepted 6. …As Anything 7. Realistically

Personnel: Keefe Jackson (tenor, sopranino saxophone); Jim Baker (piano, synthesizer) and Julian Kirshner (drums)