What Times Are These

SSC1722 2024-04-05

Track List

In the Light of Day - 5:56
To Be of Use - 9:55
An Old Story - 9:23
In Those Years - 9:35
What Kind of Times Are These - 6:42
Sorrow Song - 6:14
My Grandmother In the Stars - 7:39
I Am Wrestling With Despair - 5:48
Dreams - 7:34
In the Day of Light - 6:03


Jamie Baum - flute, voice
Jonathan Finlayson - trumpet, voice
Sam Sadigursky - alto saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet
Chris Komer - french horn
Brad Shepik - guitar, singing bowls
Luis Perdomo - piano, fender rhodes
Ricky Rodriguez - bass, electric bass guitar
Theo Bleckmann - vocals
Sara Serpa - vocals
Aubrey Johnson - vocals
Kokayi - vocals
Keita Ogawa - percussion

On What Times Are These (Sunnyside), Jamie Baum’s fifth recording with The Jamie Baum Septet+, her flagship ensemble, the acclaimed New York-based flutist-composer presents her first exploration of spoken word and art song. To be specific, seven of Baum’s ten compositions respond to works by a cohort of eminent 20th and 21st century female 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.

The album follows the critically acclaimed Sunnyside releases In This Life (2013) and Bridges (2018), on which Baum explored the connections between South Asian qawwali, Near Eastern maqam, and Jewish sacred musical traditions, incorporating the scales and rhythms into her vivid harmonic and orchestrative argot. Here again, Baum blends multiple influences, tailoring the improvisational sections to the individualistic tonal personalities of her uniquely configured ensemble of virtuosos: herself on flute and alto flute; Jonathan Finlayson on trumpet; Sam Sadigursky on alto saxophone, clarinet and bass clarinet; Chris Komer, French horn; Brad Shepik, guitar; Luis Perdomo, piano and Fender Rhodes; Ricky Rodriguez on bass and electric bass; Jeff Hirshfield on drums; and, on three selections, Keita Ogawa on percussion. As reviewer Dan Bilawsky remarked of Bridges, Baum again “creates a world where sonic and spiritual resonance rest on an even plane.” with “a pronounced sense of purpose lighting the way.”

The title, inspired by Adrienne Rich’s 1995 poem “What Kinds of Times Are These,” refers to the surreal, chaotic milieu following the outbreak of Covid-19 in the spring of 2020 when, as Baum puts it, “one by one, the gigs fell like dominoes and everything shut down.” She continues: “It was biblical, like the plagues. We’re going along, and then boom, we’re stopped in our tracks.” Sequestered with her husband in their small Manhattan apartment, Baum responded by “diving head first into composing.”

The end result is a magisterial, multi-faceted artistic statement that fully addresses the existential darkness and political turmoil of the times in question, but also provides moments of great beauty, excitement and uplifting solace.