Robert Baird

Robert Baird  |  Feb 26, 2024  |  0 comments
Photo by Sabrina Santiago

There's a fear out there, even among jazz cognoscenti, that the music's best years and true geniuses are all part of the past. Even in New York City, the richest magnet for live jazz on earth, it sometimes seems that experiencing generational talent, the kind that once drove the music forward, is now confined to gazing at the famous photos on the walls of the music's most revered shrine, the Village Vanguard. Yet, seeing pianist Sullivan Fortner at the Vanguard, as part of Cécile McLorin Salvant's band, convinced me that there's still jazz magic in the world. By turns playful, blindingly brilliant, and at times puppy dog goofy, Fortner was spectacular. He is clearly a star in the music's future.

Robert Baird  |  Feb 19, 2024  |  2 comments
Given his seemingly endless stream of ideas, virtuoso instrumentalism, and considerable wealth of recordings, Keith Jarrett is a creative universe unto himself. He began his recording career on Atlantic Records and recorded for several labels, including Impulse!, along the way, but it was on Manfred Eicher's label ECM that he first broke through to worldwide fame in 1973, with the 3-LP set Keith Jarrett, Solo Concerts: Bremen/Lausanne. Considering its landmark status, it's fitting that the album is among the first releases in ECM's new Luminessence vinyl series, reissued in its original triple-vinyl form.
Robert Baird  |  Feb 13, 2024  |  5 comments
Van Halen: Van Halen
Warner Bros./Mobile Fidelity UD1S 2-032 (2 45rpm LPs). 1978/2023. Ted Templeton, prod.; Donn Landee, Krieg Wunderlich, engs.
Performance ****½
Sonics ****½

I remember the day I walked into radio station WTGP, "The Great 88," at Thiel College and saw the Van Halen jacket for the first time. Drummer Alex Van Halen was a stereotypical blur. Bassist Michael Anthony acted the part of the metal bro. But that guitarist holding a ramshackle Stratocaster crisscrossed with electrical tape? On the back cover was a hairy-chested dude in profile, athletic tape on his knuckles, bent over backward in high-heeled boots.

Robert Baird, Thomas Conrad  |  Feb 09, 2024  |  1 comments
Chien Chien Lu: Built In System; Mareike Wiening: Reveal; Billy Mohler: Ultraviolet; Ambrose Akinmusire: Owl Song.
Robert Baird  |  Feb 01, 2024  |  2 comments
In Jan Swafford's excellent 2020 Mozart biography The Reign of Love, he intimately weaves the composer's life story with the music he created. Along the way, he confirms a legendary scene. Played to the hilt in Amadeus, Milos Forman's 1984 film adaptation of Peter Shaffer's play, the then-reigning Hapsburg monarch, Joseph II, rushes backstage after the premiere of Mozart's first operatic blockbuster, The Abduction from the Seraglio, and opines, "Too beautiful for our [Viennese] ears, my dear Mozart, and monstrous many notes." Sassy by nature or perhaps just stung by the implied criticism, Mozart supposedly replied, "Exactly as many as necessary, Your Majesty."

That quote rings in my head each time I listen to Bruce Springsteen's still-astonishing 1973 debut album, Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J., which has just turned 50 and been reissued in Mobile Fidelity's Ultradisc One-Step series.

Robert Baird  |  Jan 29, 2024  |  4 comments
"When I first listened to the tape I thought, this is so good that if I do anything else in my life, I have to make sure the world hears this," David Prinz says with obvious intensity. "That's how I really feel. It makes me happy that all these Gram fans are finally going to get to hear what he was really like live."

The love of music can drive human beings to astonishing lengths. For Prinz, cofounder/owner of California's Amoeba Music chain, that fervor revolves around the work of country-rock pioneer Gram Parsons. Despite the often-outlandish mythology that's grown up around this shooting star since his tragic 1973 overdose at age 26, Prinz has made it his quixotic mission to find, restore, and release unreleased Gram Parsons live shows.

Robert Baird, Phil Brett, Ray Chelstowski  |  Jan 12, 2024  |  3 comments
Grateful Dead: Wake of the Flood, 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition; Betty Davis: Crashin' From Passion; X-Ray Spex: Conscious Consumer; Cat Power: Cat Power Sings Dylan: The 1966 Royal Albert Hall Concert.
Robert Baird  |  Dec 26, 2023  |  1 comments
Having just finished this review of The Replacements' Tim: Let It Bleed Edition, I thought I'd glance at a couple of online forums to see what the collective verdict was on the sound quality of the set's main attraction: a remix of the album by Ramones engineer Ed Stasium. At Steve Hoffman's forums, I saw this in one of the first posts: "It sounded like I expected Tim to sound when it came out in the fall of 1985. I've also listened to the newly remastered original album that comes with the set, and while it sounds good and I'm glad to have it, it pales compared to the 2023 Stasium mix." Ticking down a post or two, exuberance gushed forth: "Well, IMO the [Stasium] version of Tim may be the greatest rock record of all time."
Robert Baird, Phil Brett, Ray Chelstowski, Tom Fine  |  Dec 08, 2023  |  0 comments
The Beatles: Now & Then (single); Teenage Fanclub: Nothing Lasts Forever; Devendra Banhart: Flying Wig; Ariel Posen: Reasons Why.
Robert Baird  |  Nov 30, 2023  |  0 comments
A vital member of the second wave of Texas singer-songwriters that emerged in the 1970s and included Lucinda Williams, Butch Hancock, and Lyle Lovett, Nanci Griffith was a product of a time when, to paraphrase a once-ubiquitous bumper sticker, Austin was still weird. Gifted with a delicate, sweet voice and fierce determination, she started playing out at the age of 12 and getting paid at 14. While never having the ability to project Joan Baez–like volume, she could certainly fill a room. And while her voice could at times take on a flat, almost-nasal resonance, her tight vibrato was strong and evocatory the more you listened.