It seems jazz churns out hundreds of new electric guitarists per year, and many of them sound much the same. Mike Baggetta has the potential to break the mold of post-John Scofield plectrists if his talent in evidence on this debut recording progresses as it should. Blessed with a refined approach and solid technique, Baggetta's quartet displays music in the neo-bop vein, and in tandem with tenor saxophonist Jason Rigby, gives the listener much food for thought as their well-tethered tandem lines whip up an attractive textures. The parallels of Scofield's work with Joe Lovano in the early '90s is hard to deny, as Baggetta and Rigby supply linear modern jazz at once luscious and vocally influenced. Bassist Eivind Opsvik is a rhythmic force to be reckoned with, and alongside the dynamic drumming of R.J. Miller, gives the music a buoyancy without ever being cute or bouncy. Small Spaces is the conceptual idea of the album, and the title track sports the typical but stretched-out, straight-ahead, modernistic, neo-bop style of New York City that many musicians gravitate toward. Within the same sort of framework, "Stellar" deals on a reduced, fine-tuned level, a sleeker stance retaining the winsome sound, with Baggetta doing a Thelonious Monk-like solo. Even thinner, "No Gravity" is set up by an ostinato bass line via Opsvik in 7/8 time, while a pensive "Hospital Song" and especially the solemn ballad "Trails" continue the deconstruction process in 1/8 scale faux happiness. The fatter tunes are "The Heights" where the well-established Scofield-Lovano partnership in sound comes roaring through, instrumentally singing in darting, snake-like la la fashion with a frantic bridge from Rigby and a madman drum solo by Miller, transcending prior established norms. Parallels to Baggetta's mentor Vic Juris, and the sax sound of Rigby peer Seamus Blake are clearly discernible through most of this material, but "Olive Tree," the lone non-Baggetta composition, sports a different approach. Listen to Kenny Burrell, or the great Duke Pearson standard "Christo Redentor" in comparison to soulful repast and repose as articulated by Baggetta's guitar on this track that is different from the rest. One cleared-out duet between the leader and drummer, "Heartland" has the kind of yearning for Midwestern American value not readily associated with urban life and big cities. Within such confined quarters, Mike Baggetta's music scratches the surface in what he might be capable of down the road. You hear many implied or derivative influences both subtle and overt, but for sure a voice that is in developmental stages, very competent, not yet well-defined, undoubtedly enjoyable, and ready for more.
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AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos