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CD Review: The Eel

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Jeremy Baum The Eel

(2013, Flying Yak Records)

The title track of Woodstock-born keyboard wizard Jeremy Baum's latest outing, The Eel, is a funky barnburner with a Hendrix-inspired guitar solo—courtesy of Myles Mancuso—that perfectly encapsulates everything that's great about the album: For all of its eclecticism and genre hopping, The Eel remains rooted in greasy soul jazz. Baum's career, which features stints from artists ranging from Levon Helm to Shemekia Copeland, is a testament to his comfort in a variety of musical settings. On The Eel, he tackles a strong set of originals and covers with a changing lineup of sidemen, including guitarists Mancuso, Chris Vitarello, and Scott Sharrard, drummers Eric Kalb and Chris Redden, and reedsman Jay Collins.

It is an indication of Baum's skill as a leader that the album coheres as well as it does, especially given the wide-ranging musical territory he covers. There is a gentle acoustic reading of Orleans's soft-rock staple "Dance with Me" featuring the harmonica of Dennis Gruenling, while the original "Three More Bottles" features guest vocals from Chris O'Leary and some Allen Toussaint-esque piano from Baum, bringing to mind a different kind of Orleans. Covers of Beck's "The New Pollution" and James Brown's "Aint It Funky Now" allow Baum to let loose with his funky organ chops. Perhaps the most remarkable performance, however, is the gorgeous reading of Prince's anthemic "Purple Rain," on which Vitarello's guitar soars. There is a great deal to enjoy on Baum's latest. Don't let it slip away. Jeremybaum.com

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