Paul Baker – “Blue Lights Late Nights”

This past June, Columbus area bassist Paul Baker self-released his excellent debut album Blue Lights Late Nights (Artwork by Anne Baker). The album contains four originals, plus a bonus track alternate version of one of the tunes, of traditionally-minded straight-ahead jazz brought into the present by an octet of talented musicians connected to Baker through his time at Otterbein University. The album is not currently available online, but there is a great opportunity this weekend to purchase a copy that also includes a star-studded performance of the album tunes! A “Blue Lights Late Nights & More!” show will be held at the Endangered Species record store, 11 West Winter Street in Delaware, on Saturday, September 9th at 7pm. Baker will be joined by the following lineup: Dominic Baer – Piano, Benjamin Crowder – Trombone, Zach Compston – Drum Set, Pete Mills – Tenor Saxophone, Andrew Kovaleski – Alto Saxophone, and Lee Tucker – Trumpet. The band will perform the album in its entirety along with a selection of jazz standards. There is no cover charge and the event is BYOB. If you can’t make the show, please note that the album is also available at Endangered Species during their normal business hours. Keep reading for my thoughts on the album.

Recorded by Luke Boyle and Barrett Hoffman at GrooveU in Columbus, and mastered and edited by Alex Hayes, Blue Lights Late Nights presents warm, inviting compositions executed by a complementary group of musicians. Baker opens lead track “Blue Light District” with a gently rumbling solo that establishes a melody that is soon to be stuck in the listener’s head. Kovaleski joins Baker on the melody when the band comes in, which soon leads to a body of great solos, highlighted by a Baer piano solo that ramps up to hammering intensity with help from guitarist Owen Hopper and a rhythmic nudge from drummer Lee Kolarik II. “Broken” has more of a noir-ish feel, with smoky parts for the horns led by tenor saxophonist Korey Black, who then turns in a beautifully breathy solo up front followed by nuanced passages from the ensemble. “This Beautiful Pain” opens with a somber bowed solo from Baker before easing into a light bossa nova feel that backs a subdued melody powered by Black, Crowder, and Tucker. Kovaleski’s adventurous solo uses some more avant garde tones, Tucker follows with a stately passage, and Hopper ambles expressively before the melody returns and saunters into the distance. Finale “Fort Etude” has a strong classic swing ensemble sound, with a catchy lead that highlights Tucker, and another round of expansive solos from the band highlighted by one more swinging stroll from Baker.

Blue Lights Late Nights is a job well-done by Baker and his group, bringing classic jazz modes into the 21st century with charming tunes and exciting performances by a skilled band. Highly recommended for straight-ahead and classic jazz fans – pick one up at Endangered Species!

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