Jamie Baum Septet – What Times Are These (ENG review)

Sunnyside – Street Date April 5th 2024
Jamie Baum Septet - What Times Are These

At the peak of her artistry, flutist and composer Jamie Baum delivers her new album, “What Times Are These.” Indeed, art is at the forefront here, on every level. The compositions draw from classical music, jazz, funk, and beyond, making it an album that defies classification in a single genre but remains utterly captivating. It seamlessly blends the art of composition with arrangement and poetry. On “What Times Are These,” Baum’s fifth recording with The Jamie Baum Septet+, the New York-based flutist-composer presents her first exploration into spoken word. Specifically, seven out of the ten compositions respond to works by a group of prominent 20th and 21st-century poets (Adrienne Rich, Marge Piercy, Tracy K. Smith, Lucille Clifton, and Naomi Shihab Nye), interpreted by renowned guest vocalists Theo Bleckmann, Sara Serpa, Aubrey Johnson, and KOKAYI.
This isn’t a work intended for novices who might get lost in its complexity. Rather, it’s a piece to be appreciated as a whole, if one possesses the cultural background to access and savor each moment. Serpa’s ethereal voice opens Naomi Shihab Nye’s poignant poem, “My Grandmother in the Stars” (“It’s possible we may not meet again on earth”), about her grandmother in Palestine, accompanied by Sadigursky’s contextually perfect alto saxophone solo. Baum explains, “I was involved in taking care of my mother, whose dementia progressed to a point where I can’t even play this for her. It’s been incredibly painful, and this piece gave me an outlet to express those feelings.”
Once again, this intimate approach has fueled Jamie Baum’s creative force, imprinting gravity and reflection throughout. When one reaches such a level of perfection in musical composition, a piece that could have been primarily intended for the stage is equally remarkable in this recording. “An Old Story” by former U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith, recited in spoken word by Finlayson (who delivers a lyrical solo midway through) and sung by Aubrey Johnson, adeptly handles difficult intervals. The dark opening reminder of humanity’s self-destructive tendencies is tempered by the message of renewal brought forth by the song.
A recurrent theme of battling personal demons through musical expression also informs the treatment of Piercy’s “To Be of Use,” with Baum reciting the communal lyrics, along with the three instrumentals, including “Dreams” and companion pieces “In The Light of Day” and “In The Day of Light,” framing the recording.
If, for you, the beauty of a musical work merits the same contemplation as a visual artwork, then and only then will this album appear as “Indispensable,” as it did for us.

Thierry De Clemensat
USA correspondent – Paris-Move and ABS magazine
Editor in chief Bayou Blue Radio, Bayou Blue News

PARIS-MOVE, March 14th 2024


Release Show: May 7th, 2024 at Drom, NYC at 7pm

To buy this album




  1. In The Light of Day, featuring: Keita Ogawa
  2. To Be Of Use (poem by Marge Piercy), spoken word: Jamie Baum
  3. An Old Story (poem by Tracy K. Smith), spoken word: Jonathan Finlayson
    Featuring: Aubrey Johnson & Keita Ogawa
  4. In Those Years (poem by Adrienne Rich), featuring: Theo Bleckmann
  5. What Kind of Times Are These (poem by Adrienne Rich), featuring: Sara Serpa
  6. Sorrow Song (poems by KOKAYI & Lucille Clifton), featuring: KOKAYI & Aubrey Johnson
  7. My Grandmother In The Stars (for Edie Baum) (poem by Naomi Shihab Nye) ,featuring: Sara Serpa
  8. I Am Wrestling With Despair (poem by Marge Piercy), featuring: Sara Serpa
  9. Dreams (for Ron Wynne), featuring: Aubrey Johnson
  10. In The Day of Light (featuring: Keita Ogawa)