Steve Baker: Tonic

One track, Rightly Said, stands out for its relative abandon in a set by a library composer that's characterised by polish and restraint

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Baker has composed widely for TV and radio and has specialised in library music, so the chances are that many readers will have heard his efforts without realising it, and in much the same way as many people hear Ronnie Ross via Lou Reed’s biggest hit and Phil Woods thanks to one of Billy Joel’s.

This is his first album as a leader, and it’s incredibly polite, in the sense that for me at least none of the music leaves a lasting impression, neither positive nor negative, nor indeed any nuanced point in between.

Undo History Part 1 is a slightly enigmatic piano solo which is rendered more so by Part 2 of the same title, which features a full band and at times gets a little (positively) unruly before order is restored. Enquire Within also flirts coyly with the unexpected before the lush orchestration puts a stop to it.

The overall restraint is emphasised (most politely) by the ECM-esque strains of Fields Beneath, where Mark Lockheart on soprano sax gives it some Jan Garbarek.

In such company Rightly Said stands out as wildly eccentric and is welcome in the sense that it’s the closest anything here gets to sanding off the polished surface of the music. Collective restraints are thrown off (albeit politely) and the result breathes with a joy otherwise lacking before Belinda closes things with measures of restraint sufficient to ensure that when the music stops, so does any impression it’s made. This might, of course, say more about this reviewer’s dodgy memory than anything else.

Discography
False Relation Part 1; False Relation Part 2; Riley; Undo History Part 1; Undo History Part 2; Enquire Within; The Garden; Fields Beneath; Rightly Said; Belinda (52.50)
Laura Jurd (t); Raphael Clarkson (tb); Mark Lockheart (s, bcl); Katherine Baker (f); Richard Harvey (recorder); Ghatam V. Suresh (ghatam); Caroline Dale (clo); Steve Baker (p, kyb, g, pc); John Parricelli (elg); Dedi Madden (elg, g); Robin Mullarkey (elb); Tom Herbert (b); Ralph Salmins (d); Walter Mets (pc). String orchestrations played by the Hungarian Studio Orchestra. Numerous dates and locations.
Ubuntu Music UBU0096