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Duck Baker - Confabulations [ESP Disk - 2021]

One of the marks of a good/ great improviser is that their sonic identity always remains firm and focused- no matter who they work with.  And one such improviser is the subject of this ten-track compilation American-now- London based Duck Baker- who is a renowned/ celebrated guitarist who plays a distinctive finger-style of acoustic guitar. This CD/ digital release on respected free jazz label ESP’ Disc collections together collabs Baker has been part of between the mid-1990s and late 2010s.

The ten tracks/ fifty-nine-minute CD comes presented in a fold-out six-panel digipak- this inside takes in a write up about Bakers career and connects by the man himself. With the front cover taking in an abstract blend of lines, ripped paper, and a textured circle.

The material here moves between 1994 and 2017- with track runtimes going between three and eleven minutes.  The release opens with the wonderfully titled “Imp Romp 2”- this was recorded in 2008 at London’s Café Oto- and finds Mr Baker with alto Sax player Michael Moor. The track is manically flitting and tense mix of tight ‘n’ taut twang, and warbling ‘n’ wavering horn work, featuring some nice detours into vocally piping sax playing, elegant and Spanish guitar cascades, and bubbling throatiness. As we move through the CD we come to 2002’s “Indie Pen Dance”- which finds Baker partnering up with one of the great improv/ experimental guitarists of all time Derek Bailey. The track was recorded in Bailey’s house,  it's a dizzying and detailed blend of rapid picks, scambling angular string strums, and mid-to-higher pitched twangs- all to create a wonderful urgent track.

We have 2009’s “Duo For 225 Strings” which is recorded in Café Oto- here we the shifting piano runs and key flirts of Steve Beresford been joined by the rapid neck weaves, tense plucks, and snapping twang of Mr Baker. There’s the forlorn-yet-fraughtly cascading “Tourbillion Air”- this is the most recent track here recorded in 2017 at the Vortex in London. It sees Baker been joined by Alex Ward- Clarinet, John Edwards- bass, and Steve Noble- drums. This is followed up by the oldest track here 1997’s “Pope Slark” which finds Baker joined by bass player Mark Dresser- for tight and taut duelling between manic bass runs and flirts, and detailed/ rapid selection of twangs, neck runs, and darts from Barker.


You have got to of course enjoy the sound/ tone of acoustic guitar in improv, to really get a kick out of Confabulations. But if you do, you’ll find a varied and largely worthy selection of collaborations offered up here. 

Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5

Roger Batty
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