Running the gamut between daring twelve-tone interplay, nuanced lyricism and extra-terrestrial synth manipulation, Horizon Scanners announces the arrival of a captivating new Chicagoan piano trio, one steeped in the Windy City’s illustrious jazz history, but determined to write its own distinctive chapter.
Steve Hunt (drums and percussion) and Jim Baker (piano and ARP 2600 synth) were both formative players in what would become the talent incubator of Chicago’s vibrant free-jazz and improvised-music circuit; Hunt notably serving as an original member of the legendary Hal Russell NRG Ensemble, Baker doing time with the house band at Fred Anderson’s renowned Velvet Lounge club. More recently, the pair have performed alongside, among others, Mars Williams, Junius Paul, Dave Rempis, Charles Rumback and Rafael Toral. Joining Hunt and Baker on Horizon Scanners is the livewire Jakob Heinemann (double-bass), a newcomer to the scene whose list of collaborators is already inked with vaunted names such as Roscoe Mitchell, Tomeka Reid and Tim Daisy.
Centred around Baker’s dexterous harmonic variations and buoyed by the textural rhythmic guile of Hunt and Heinemann, Horizon Scanners captures a cross-generational trio combining their considerable talents on an astonishingly fertile collection awash with questing vision and bustling creativity. As the album evolves from its intricately figurative, tenderly inquisitive beginnings, the trio seek out a succession of angular, deeply exploratory soundscapes, virtuosic displays of technical refinement further atomised and reconfigured in ebullient Signac-like particles via the reality-warping distortions of Baker’s ARP 2600.
As Ken Vandermark writes in his liner notes: “Though it might be easy to call this group a classic ‘piano trio; due to its instrumentation, the music documented on Horizon Scanners is part of a specific history which has its roots in Bill Evans’ approach to non-hierarchical improvisation created by his band with Scott LaFaro and Paul Motian. This music is combinative, not foreground vs. background. And that is something consistent about Chicago music when it is at its best: multiple voices and perspectives encapsulated equally, whether on the scene as a whole, or within a singular band like this trio.”
Upholding their home city’s well-honed reputation for sonic exploration, this exceptional trio steers for pyretic waters bubbling with vitality, invention and wonder, seeking out the limits of possibility while negotiating a myriad dazzling ways to get there.
All music by Jim Baker, Steve Hunt and Jakob Heinemann (ASCAP)
Tracks 2-7 recorded live at the Hungry Brain in Chicago on April 24th, 2022 by Bill Harris | Track 1 recorded at bel_Air Studios in Chicago on April 30th, 2022 by Todd Carter | Mixed and mastered by Bill Harris
Produced by Jim Baker, Steve Hunt and Jakob Heinemann | Executive production by Pedro Costa for Trem Azul | Design by Travassos
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