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Jackson / Baker / Kirshner

So Glossy and So Thin [CASSETTE W/ DOWNLOAD]

Jackson / Baker / Kirshner: So Glossy and So Thin [CASSETTE W/ DOWNLOAD] (Astral Spirits)

The second release for the Chicago trio of Keefe Jackson on tenor & sopranino saxophones, Jim Baker on piano & synthesizer, and Julian Kirshner on drums, following their 2016 album The Noisy Miner, are heard in two performances a year apart at the Hungry Brain, each an extended exploration of remarkably compatible, creative and uniquely lyrical collective collaboration.av

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product information:

Label: Astral Spirits
Catalog ID: AS129CS
Squidco Product Code: 29691

Condition: New
Released: 2020
Country: USA
Packaging: Cassette
Recorded live at the Hungry Brain, in Chicago, Illinois, on June 10, 2018, and September 29, 2019, by Bill Harris.


Keefe Jackson-tenor saxophone, sopranino saxophone

Jim Baker-piano, synthesizer

Julian Kirshner-drums

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Artist Biographies:

"Keefe Jackson, saxophonist/clarinetist/improvisor/composer, arrived in Chicago in 2001 from his native Fayettevile, Arkansas. He performs regularly in the U.S. and in Europe with many musicians including Pandelis Karayorgis, Tomeka Reid, Tim Daisy, Dave Rempis, Jeb Bishop, Jason Roebke, Jason Adasiewicz, Mike Reed, Jason Stein, Josh Berman, Fred Lonberg-Holm, Frank Rosaly, Oscar Jan Hoogland and Marc Unternaehrer. He has also appeared with Michael Moore, Ab Baars, Michiel Braam, Satoko Fujii, and Anthony Coleman. Bill Meyer (Chicago Reader): "...the impeccable logic of his lines and the richness of his tone leave you wanting more... Jackson's high-register squiggles and coarsely voiced, rippling runs push the limits of the tenor's tonal envelope." Frank van Herk, de Volkskrant (Amsterdam): "[Jackson] has an old-fashioned, warm-woolly sound, and a feeling for melodic lines that take their time in unfolding." He has been mentioned in the DownBeat Critics Poll in the Rising Star Tenor Saxophone category. Recordings are available on Delmark and Clean Feed Records."

-Keefe Jackson Website (

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"Jim Baker was born in Chicago a number of years ago and has been playing in and around Chicago and elsewhere in the world for a few decades, mostly on piano and analog synthesizer; mostly in improvisational contexts; in situations involving, amongst others, Fred Anderson, Ken Vandermark, Michael Zerang, Mars Williams, Brian Sandstrom, Steve Hunt, Edward WIlkerson Jr, David Boykin, Rob Mazurek, Guillermo Gregorio, Nicole Mitchell, Vincent Davis, the Thing XXL, Tortoise, Dave Rempis, Fred Lonberg-Holm, Paul Hartsaw, Janet Bean, Damon Short, and numerous others.

For a number of years, Mr Baker was the house pianist at the weekly jam sessions at Fred Anderson's Velvet Lounge; and for most of the past decade, has played weekly with the improvising quartet Extraordinary Popular Delusions (the other three Delusions: Messrs. Williams, Sandstrom, & Hunt) , who currently play nearly every monday night at Beat Kitchen in Chicago."

-Milk Factory Productions (

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"Julian Kirshner is a Chicago-based percussionist primarily working in the context of jazz and improvised music. Percussion studies began at age 10 when Kirshner was selected to be a member of the CSO's Percussion Scholarship Group. Over the past 10 years, he has studied with Sarah Allen, David Bloom, Dylan Ryan, and Frank Rosaly. Kirshner also organizes the Improvised Music Series at Myopic Books, a weekly showcase of musicians playing uncharted music in a first-time context."

-Art Lit Lab (

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track listing:


1. Then 21:38


1. and again 23:45
sample the album:

descriptions, reviews, &c.

"Keefe Jackson, Jim Baker, and Julian Kirshner are all lesser-known musicians in Chicago's perennially rich jazz and free-improv scene, a trio of role players whose innovations have yet to receive their proper appreciation outside of the Windy City. So Glossy and So Thin, their second trio release following 2016's The Noisy Miner, should change all of that. Taken from a pair of performances at Roscoe Village venue The Hungry Brain in 2018 and 2019, the album's two 20-minute tracks are a showcase not only for their talents as individuals, but also for the depth of their connection. The ease with which they handle this music makes even their farthest-out moments feel accessible. The joyful spirit behind Jackson, Baker, and Kirshner's explorations makes So Glossy and So Thin the rare free-jazz album that goes down easy.

Part of its charm has to do with how clearly these three enjoy playing with one another. They come off like they're racing to an agreed-upon location by separate routes. Jackson's sax and Baker's piano tease and tickle in the opening moments of "Then," rolling around like a pair of dogs in a yard. They shift in and out of time with one another, with the rapidly assembled patterns of Kirshner's drumming providing a kind of mosaic-tiled ground for the other two to race over. At times they pump like a New Orleans funk band, full of footloose swagger and goofy gestures. At others, they bang out stormy pulses and thick, dissonant chords that would be at home on the experimental series of a major symphony orchestra.

What links these moments together and keeps So Glossy and So Thin from feeling disconnected is how smoothly they transition from section to section. Once they've exhausted "Then"'s opening, the trio deftly glides from all-out clatter to low-volume tinker with the grace of a pelican skimming the ocean, setting the stage for a gorgeous off-blue solo from Jackson. They make it work in reverse, too, raising "and again" from a simmer so slowly you don't notice how hot things have become until they turn it back down again.

That low section in "and again" is one of the album's most effective moments. It's built around a long solo from Kirshner, who takes a note from Rashied Ali and treats his cymbals like hanging sound bowls; he keeps them at a steady ring while attending to a nervous pulse out of the kick drum, with a few strokes of tom providing the color. The motion is constant, but Kirshner's playing is so deft -he taps the bell of the cymbal like he's testing an egg - it feels like an ASMR recording, or the distant buzz and thump of a highly pitched synthesizer.

As if to not be outdone, Baker brings out an actual synthesizer in "and again." While Sun Ra was incorporating electronics into his music by the early 1960s, and Patrick Gleeson's modular synths were crucial to the success of Herbie Hancock's wildest mid-'70s experiments, Baker has over his many years working with the ARP 2600 developed a mode of playing that gives the synth an expressive range as wide as any wind instrument. Stacked against the cough and yawp of Jackson's sopranino sax, the ARP comes alive. Baker almost seems to be breathing through the machine, making it howl and groan, and teetering between tonality and atonality. Jackson picks around the ARP's edges, goading Baker deeper and deeper, before breaking off and joining Kirshner's rattling toms to create a pattern that itself feels like the product of a modular synth. They play in this free space - lines between sax, synth, and drums obliterated - for a few moments, then move on.

At its core, So Glossy and So Thin is nothing more than three musicians creating an environment where they can test out some of their best ideas. Remarkably, every single one of them pays off. While the music isn't simple, it's always convincing, like watching a movie in a foreign language: Even if you can't follow the plot, the emotional contours are plain as day."-Marty Sartini Garner, Pitcfork Media

Get additional information at Pitchfork Media
Related Categories of Interest:

Physical Releases that include Download Codes
Improvised Music
Free Improvisation
Collective Free Improvsation
Chicago Jazz & Improvisation
Trio Recordings
Staff Picks & Recommended Items

Physical Releases that include Download Codes
Improvised Music
Free Improvisation
Collective Free Improvsation
Chicago Jazz & Improvisation
Trio Recordings
Staff Picks & Recommended Items

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