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Interview with Jamie Baum

November 22, 2011
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While jazz flutist/compose/arranger Jamie Baum has been known for her intriguing, classically-influenced, innovative compositions, her latest project “While We Are Here” reflects her several trips to South Asia where she had many opportunities to learn and perform with musicians there. Like her earlier projects, her goal isn’t to perform with stylistic authenticity, but to communicate the excitement, spirit and energy felt and heard in those forms. Her recent muse is found in the world-renowned Pakistani musician Nusrat Fateh Ali Kahn who was primarily a singer of Qawwali, the devotional music of the Sufis (a mystical tradition within Islam).  On December 12th at Roulette, Baum and her award-winning, twelve-year old Septet will perform new music from her latest project “While We Are Here”.

ROULETTE: Tell us as about the work you’ll be doing at Roulette.
JAMIE BAUM: While some of my past projects have been influenced by modern classical composers, my latest project reflects my several trips to South Asia, including India, Bangladesh, Nepal  and Sri Lanka,  where I had many opportunities to learn from and perform with musicians there. Like my earlier projects, my goals aren’t to perform this music with stylistic authenticity, but to communicate the excitement, spirit and energy felt and heard in those forms in a jazz context.

I would say that my most recent muse is predominantly found in the world-renowned Pakistani musician Nusrat Fateh Ali Kahn who was primarily a singer of Qawwali, the devotional music of the Sufis (a mystical tradition within Islam). In this upcoming concert, we will  either perform pieces that I have arranged of his or that are my own compositions that have been influenced by him.

R: How did you meet your collaborators?
JB: Some of the musicians I have met when I have performed with them on other musicians’ projects or else hearing them on other musicians’ projects.

R: What’s your history with your collaborators?
JB: I have had my septet since 1999. While more recently I have made some changes in personnel to fit the new direction of the music, I was lucky to have been able to retain most of the same musicians for many years.

R: How long have you been working on the project?
JB: I have been working on the music for this project for the past four years.

R: What are you exploring, either in terms of imagery behind the work or performance tools?
JB:  I have been working to understand the Qawwali approach, or Nusrat Fateh Ali Kahn’s approach to improvisation and group interplay and trying to find ways to apply to my compositions/improvisation.

R: Are there working artists today with whose work you identify, or rather, who do you consider to be your peers?
JB: Perhaps some of the people I play or have played with.

R: What are some defining characteristics of the musical scene you would fit yourself into?
JB: Having studied the jazz tradition, loving it but not necessarily confining myself to it. I have always seemed to straddle the line between jazz and other styles, not really fitting into either. I like to take ideas from whatever inspires, excites or interests me including anything I to want to learn about that will expand my thinking, writing and playing, irrespective of genre

R: Do you consider yourself more a composer or a performer?
JB: I really see myself as both.

R: Who do you see as instrumental in your development as an artist?
JB: The other musicians I work with, anyone and everyone I listen to.

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