BakerzMillion - Live In Racine
  • 1 Bluesish
  • 2 Baby Steps
  • 3 Eisen Bleu
  • 4 Softly
  • 5 Second Hand Smoking
  • 6 The State of the Estate
  • 1 Bluesish
    Genre: Jazz
    MP3 (07:49) [17.89 MB]
  • 2 Baby Steps
    Genre: Jazz
    MP3 (06:27) [14.77 MB]
  • 3 Eisen Bleu
    Genre: Jazz
    MP3 (08:10) [18.69 MB]
  • 4 Softly
    Genre: Jazz
    MP3 (06:13) [14.24 MB]
  • 5 Second Hand Smoking
    Genre: Jazz
    MP3 (10:00) [22.89 MB]
  • 6 The State of the Estate
    Genre: Jazz
    MP3 (05:50) [13.36 MB]
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Andy Baker & Steve Million
BakerzMillion - Live in Racine
Delmark DE 5037
Compact Disc

Steve Million PIANO
Eric Jacobson TRUMPET
John Sims BASS
Tim Davis DRUMS

1 Bluesish 7:47 ANDY BAKER (BMI)
2 Baby Steps 6:25 ANDY BAKER (BMI)
3 Eisenbleu 8:08 STEVE MILLION (ASCAP)
4 Softly 6:11 ANDY BAKER (BMI)
5 Second Hand Smoking 9:58 STEVE MILLION (ASCAP)
6 The State of the Estate 6:25 ANDY BAKER (BMI)


Very much in the vein of Art Blakey’s “Jazz Messengers” or Coltrane’s band on the legendary “Blue Train” album, BakerzMillion is Chicago’s hard bop ensemble par excellence. Its six members are a true dream team of talented and seasoned jazz musicians. The band’s longevity, over fifteen years already, contributes to the solid and balanced sound of the ensemble. Performing original tunes composed by the co-leaders, the ensemble brings a breath of fresh air to these mainstream sonorities. Elbio Barilari - Delmark Records Artistic Director

Liner notes by Michael Jackson:
Though twenty years apart in age and born on different sides of the Atlantic (the pianist in Boonville, Missouri, the trombonist in London), Steve Million and Andy Baker share the same wry sense of humor and executive attitude to music. “When I first met Andy on a jobbing gig at (Chicago’s) Newberry Library, I was sitting by myself in the break, quite miserable because the guitar player was way too loud. Andy came over with his cockney ‘hey mate’ and I dismissed him as a faker, putting on the British accent,’ laughs Million.
The two would later discover, via an encounter in the local supermarket, that they lived close by in what Baker describes as “The People’s Republic of Oak Park” — a suburb of the Windy City. Soon thereafter they started casually jamming at Million’s crib. As you’ll note from the moment this hard-blowing live date kicks off however, when these ‘casual jammers’ hit the bandstand, they strictly mean business.
Million already has a book of some sixty compositions which are in a constant state of generation dependent on the intended ensemble whereas Baker, busy as the Director of Jazz Studies at UIC and in demand for session and pit work, wanted to write more. “My way of making that happen is to call a rehearsal and say we’re going to work on some of my originals,” says Baker, “In the interim I’m forced to write something!”
As It turned out it was mostly Baker’s tunes that came off clean on this date at Racine Theatre Guild in Wisconsin in the winter of 2018. Soundman Robert Vallone ran a Protools session and kindly sent the boys the roughs. Enter legendary mixmaster Freddie Breitberg, who among other feats clarified and boosted bassman John Sims’ sound. The result is a delicious sonic experience that makes this stellar sextet resonate like a big band (amidst his skillset Breitberg is a specialist at re-vivifying large ensemble work).
The intro to Baker’s minor blues opener was inspired by trombonist/ arranger Slide Hamp-ton’s dramatic arrangement of “You Don’t Know What Love Is” from a session with Dexter Gordon in Copenhagen. This team compare favorably with that crack unit from 1969 and the balance of sound is better. Drummer Tim Davis has some of the rambunctious energy of Art Taylor. “Tim likes to stretch behind a soloist, he’s a subtle orchestrator from the kit,” comments Baker “his hook up with John is essential to the way the music feels, because John has this strength and confidence about where his quarter note is and doesn’t float around or get drawn into uncertainties.” Baker points out that the band has been through as many bassists as Spinal Tap chewed through drummers, based on availability not ability, one hastens to add. The trombonist is an alumnus of the outstanding National Youth Jazz Orchestra in the UK and studied classical music at London’s Guildhall, he further honed his horns-plus-rhythm simpatico in the ranks of Ray Gelato’s popular swing band the Giants of Jive. Witness his forceful command, taking liberties with the beat on “Bluesish”— a swaggering, audacious line occurs at one minute, thirty five. Formative Baker influences include Detroit born trombonist Frank Rosolino and Britain’s Mark Nightingale, his predecessor in NYJO. “Baby Steps,” one of the first pieces Baker wrote for the group in 2005, evokes his son Charlie’s first attempts to walk. It’s a jazz waltz built over pedal points and you can sense Charlie’s impatience and determination via an intrepid foray at 3:10 during Andy’s solo, which follows the compositional, inner-gear equilibrium of Million’s pianism. The latter’s “Eisenbleu” is outstanding in this collection, the tight, vertiginous harmonies are a challenge but since Million first recorded it with little known slouches Randy Brecker and Chris Potter (Million to One, PALMETTO, 1995), he’s rarely spared the horses with subsequent hornmen. Restlessness and poignancy at the tune’s heart hint at the title, which recalls a period when revered Chicago saxman Steve Eisen was living with Million during the dissonance of the former’s divorce. Jim Gailoretto,
another superb saxist, doesn’t let Eisen down: after Million’s tensile, probing solo, he delivers a stunning soprano performance. “Jim’s a first call, a great dynamic player,” enthuses Million, “he’s not just a hotdog, he has a selfless approach to the music, can take ego out of the equation and bring concept and sensitivity to what’s being expressed.” Anyone sleeping on Gailoretto gets a reminder what a consummate musician he is, each cut here.“Eisenbleu” and “Softly” are the centerpiece compositions and this writer’s favorites, since they bespeak a reflective vibe that transcends mere rippling chops, elsewhere on fulsome display. The latter title stems from “making noise not being a great idea” when Baker’s second born, Alex, was an infant. “I was trying to escape my own cliches with that one. I wrote it on bass trumpet to
make my ears go in different directions,” confesses the trombonist, “it’s quite abstract for me.” The lovely lilt of Sims’ swaying ostinato and Davis’ mallets underpin a gorgeously relaxed trombone foray exploiting the extremities of Baker’s ambitious range, from the climactic strained note at 3:41 to the buttery low tones with which he signs off.
After the shimmering subtleties of “Softly” this energized live date is capped with a brace of burners. “Second Hand Smoking” harks back to Million’s purple patch in the mid 90s when he was recording regularly for the Palmetto label and frequently heard at Chicago’s hallowed Green Mill. The Smoke Free Illinois Act hadn’t come into effect, so musicians were still returning home from club gigs reeking like ashtrays before 2008. Differing duration swinging figures are “knitted together by a little kick at the end of each section, then the horn part returns and folds in on itself” — Million describes his compositions almost as if they have minds of their own.
A booting peregrination from Gailoretto includes a snippet of “Shortnin’ Bread” but there’s zero trans-fat in the shaping of his longform lines which hurdle interruptive riffs, deploying surging logic and triple tonguing. Eric Jacobson nonchalantly takes the baton before scripted drum exchanges with Davis. “I love Eric’s big brassy sound,” says Baker, “he comes out of a Kenny Dorham/Lee Morgan thing and I dig his feel for the blues.” Both the aforementioned trumpeters were formative members of Art Blakey’s three-horn Jazz Messengers and Jacobson’s assertive playing fits that oeuvre, vividly conjured in the date’s last track.
Buoyed by Sims’ two-feel and strut, “The State of The Estate” hits like a portmanteau penned by Benny Golson, Stanley Turrentine and Horace Silver. Unapologetically telescoping back to the hardbop heyday of the 60s, it pays homage to a long-running jazz haunt in Milwaukee at which Jacobson booked the band on several occasions. Baker is all blowsey and swagger but check his audacious run at 1:44; Jacobson responds with percussive double timing of his own, ahead of tenor and piano. The closer is the most concise track; clocking at just under forty five minutes this set doesn’t outstay it’s welcome. In the meantime enjoy great sounding, old school, no-nonsense fire breathing over solid structures, that will stand up might-ily to anything out there. —MICHAEL JACKSON

  • Members:
    Andy Baker trombone, Steve Million piano, Eric Jacobson trumpet, Jim Gailloreto saxes, John Sims bass ,Tim Davis drums
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  • Profile Last Updated:
    11/26/23 11:46:51

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