Chelsea Baratz | In Faith

The New Voices of Today Presents...

Chelsea Baratz | In Faith
by Brent Faulkner

It is always a ‘breath of fresh air’ to hear a young, new voice in jazz. This time, the new voice comes from über talented saxophonist and composer, Chelsea Baratz, who sounds like a seasoned veteran at the ripe ‘old’ age of twenty four. On her debut effort, In Faith, creativity runs rapid whether it be funk-oriented numbers or more cerebral, neo-traditionalist cuts. Regardless of what vein Chelsea Baratz’s consummate ‘restlessness’ treats her fans to, She easily proves herself as a worthwhile new talent in jazz and more generally, in the music business. While ‘In Faith’ has its valedictory moments that overshadow slightly less celebratory ones, there are no misses and throughout, Baratz never fails to captivate with her convincing, nuanced saxophone playing; She sounds most ‘at home’ when she sheds on her tenor.

Filled with some incredibly well put together instrumental arrangements - thanks to Chelsea’s imaginative compositional style no doubt - “Philo’s Groove” opens the effort exceptionally. Here, a beautiful timbre is formed through the mix of vocals, horns (sax, trumpet, trombone), Rhodes, bass, and drums. The Rhodes solidifies the contemporary jazz/funk feel, while vocals from Renee Neufville adds an ‘eclectic’ element about this cut. Other highlights? Baratz’s great soloing on tenor saxophone and the smart use of muted trumpet (Corey Wilkes). “In Faith (Mobetta Remix)” appears before the original, but definitely is the ‘showstopper.’ Continuing a fusion-driven style of jazz, the melody is absolutely gorgeous, further accentuated by clever use of the Moog synthesizer. Baratz’s tenor saxophone solo reveals thoughtful improvisations, as does trumpeter Maurice Brown’s muted trumpet solo.

“Sentiments of Solitude” is another well crafted performance, smartly favoring a contrasting neo-traditional approach, stripping the instrumentation to tenor sax, acoustic piano, acoustic bass, and drums. While “Sentiments” may not have the ‘sheen’ that captivated the fusion tactics of “Philo’s Groove” or “In Faith (Mobetta Remix),” Baratz’s award winning tenor saxophone playing more than gives the listener ‘their fill’ on this lovely ballad. “601” reasserts more modern, crossover jazz, with an overt, funky groove that contrasts the balladry of the preceding cut. The orchestration of the instruments (sax, trumpet, and trombone) are first-rate as always; soloing on the tenor sax and the Rhodes, as well as a dramatic ending, help make “601” exceptional.

“Letting Go” is lengthy at just under eight minutes, but finds its ‘muse’ at her most cerebral. The acoustic approach is yet another contrast, and much like all other contrasts on this effort, it works very effectively. One may argue that the adjacent cut “Lover’s Lullaby,” which clocks in past the seven minute mark is a bit ‘too much of the same’ all at one time. However, when examined alone, on “Lover’s Lullaby,” Baratz once again delivers a solid, interesting performance noted for nice harmonic ideas, and even more notably, ‘a cappella’ sections (tenor saxophone alone). While “Lover’s Lullaby” may have been placed better in the sequence of the album, “In Faith” atones easily, despite it’s lengthiness at nearly nine minutes. Here, “In Faith” takes a less ‘electronic’ approach than the earlier mix, though still features acoustic piano and keyboard, in tandem with one another. As always, Baratz’s tenor shines and makes for another strong, valedictory showing.

“‘Burgh Holla (Interlude)” is certainly creative, fading into ‘tasteful-cacophony,’ which keeps the listener on edge (in a good way of course). Closing cut “Water Get No Enemy (Fela Tribute)” is arguably the album’s most creative effort, including chanted vocals “water no get enemy.” Baratz pulls out the stops on this exceptional ten minute closer with supporting background vocals, trumpet, trombone, and rhythmic drum groove. No one can deny this ‘seasoned’ veteran of twenty-four goes out with a ‘bang.’

Well produced, incredibly creative, and downright enjoyable to listen to, In Faith is a fine showing from a debut artist. Chelsea Baratz balances traditional with contemporary, which makes this effort such a ‘captivation.’ Even if her prodigious saxophone playing weren’t the highlight, the compositional creativity and the grooves and the riffs established here would be more than enough to make this effort a top-rate listen. I have no doubt that many jazz enthusiast who add In Faith to their playlists will have ‘faith’ in what Baratz continues to bring to the table in the future.

Brent Faulkner

The Urban Music Scene


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