Duck Baker

Spinning Song: Duck Baker Plays the Music of Herbie Nichols

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This CD consists entirely of solo fingerstyle guitar renditions of pieces by the legendary Blue Note pianist/composer Herbie Nichols, and as with Nichols' music -- which was nearly always performed in a standard piano/bass/drums trio format -- there is a lot more going on here than the somewhat routine surface suggests. Nichols' compositions have their own sort of ambiguous, hard-to-pin-down harmonic aroma, filled with subtle harmonic twists and soft dissonances, but Baker somehow captures it in these versions even when he detours from the originals. He swings naturally and effortlessly when he wants, but he also takes things outside and gets abstract in his own quiet way, most notably on the remarkable version of "Nick at T's." Folks who are new to Nichols' music would probably find it helpful to know the originals, since Baker rearranges several of them, tosses in quotes from other tunes, and generally does more improvising than the pianist was prone to doing. In any case, this album is a fine piece of work, one with the same type of subtlety and deceptive-sounding ease for which Nichols was/is known.

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