Saxophonist Lynn Baker has been the Director of the Jazz Studies program at the University of Denver's Lamont School of Music since 1993. Two of the members of his quartet: pianist Reggie Berg and drummer Paul Mullikin are graduates of the program, while Brazilian-born bassist Bijoux Barbosa is well-regarded player on the Denver scene. Meanwhile, the compositions on Baker's excellent release Azure Intention
were written by the artist over a twenty year period. These factors contribute to a record that is shimmering and sophisticated, with space given to all of the players to fill in their own shading. "Color Line" starts things off in a thoughtful mood (it references the ethnic violence that occurred in Denver in 1993) with Baker's smoky soprano over a moody rhythm section that perfectly captures the sadness without becoming maudlin. Berg is a well-chosen complementary performer on the piano - and his solo here is a model of graceful inventiveness, while Barbosa adds a bass solo that maintains both mood and groove on this highly satisfying number. The lovely and bittersweet "Lament" follows with Baker switching to tenor and Millikin showing considerable sensitivity in his support. Again the song itself and the atmsophere created are what counts here, as opposed to showing off "chops." The assured flow of this song is such a pleasant diversion from the usual frenetic pace and "look at me" attitude that afflict much modern music and musicians. And again Berg's solo is as natural as a flowing stream. The calm is stirred with the rhythmic "Into the Blues" on which Baker hints at some of the avant garde sounds he has explored with his free-form improvisational trio Ryhthmic Void. But the song also offers a lengthy middle section of pulsing rhythm drone over which Berg layers free form piano trills and it also surprisingly shifts into straight ahead swing. "Happy New Year" is perhaps the pop tune of the album, with a Carribean rhythm and light and joyous melody. The rest of the album follows suit with enjoyable and mature songs, with the waltzing "Davids Tune," peaceful title track, strutting "Appalachian Shuffle" and constantly-shifting "Spinning" rounding out this remarkable recording into which an obvious amount of care has been taken to gift their listeners with music of depth and color too rare in these days.