Mike Baggetta Quartet
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Mike Baggetta Quartet

New York City, New York, United States | INDIE

New York City, New York, United States | INDIE
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"'Small Spaces' by Michael G. Nastos"

It seems jazz churns out hundreds of new electric guitarists per year, and many of them sound much the same. Mike Baggetta has the potential to break the mold of post-John Scofield plectrists if his talent in evidence on this debut recording progresses as it should. Blessed with a refined approach and solid technique, Baggetta's quartet displays music in the neo-bop vein, and in tandem with tenor saxophonist Jason Rigby, gives the listener much food for thought as their well-tethered tandem lines whip up an attractive textures. The parallels of Scofield's work with Joe Lovano in the early '90s is hard to deny, as Baggetta and Rigby supply linear modern jazz at once luscious and vocally influenced. Bassist Eivind Opsvik is a rhythmic force to be reckoned with, and alongside the dynamic drumming of R.J. Miller, gives the music a buoyancy without ever being cute or bouncy. Small Spaces is the conceptual idea of the album, and the title track sports the typical but stretched-out, straight-ahead, modernistic, neo-bop style of New York City that many musicians gravitate toward. Within the same sort of framework, "Stellar" deals on a reduced, fine-tuned level, a sleeker stance retaining the winsome sound, with Baggetta doing a Thelonious Monk-like solo. Even thinner, "No Gravity" is set up by an ostinato bass line via Opsvik in 7/8 time, while a pensive "Hospital Song" and especially the solemn ballad "Trails" continue the deconstruction process in 1/8 scale faux happiness. The fatter tunes are "The Heights" where the well-established Scofield-Lovano partnership in sound comes roaring through, instrumentally singing in darting, snake-like la la fashion with a frantic bridge from Rigby and a madman drum solo by Miller, transcending prior established norms. Parallels to Baggetta's mentor Vic Juris, and the sax sound of Rigby peer Seamus Blake are clearly discernible through most of this material, but "Olive Tree," the lone non-Baggetta composition, sports a different approach. Listen to Kenny Burrell, or the great Duke Pearson standard "Christo Redentor" in comparison to soulful repast and repose as articulated by Baggetta's guitar on this track that is different from the rest. One cleared-out duet between the leader and drummer, "Heartland" has the kind of yearning for Midwestern American value not readily associated with urban life and big cities. Within such confined quarters, Mike Baggetta's music scratches the surface in what he might be capable of down the road. You hear many implied or derivative influences both subtle and overt, but for sure a voice that is in developmental stages, very competent, not yet well-defined, undoubtedly enjoyable, and ready for more. - All Music Guide

"'Small Spaces' by Tom Chandler"

A NY contemporary of guys like Ben Monder and Brad Shepik, Baggetta is a versatile, lyrical guitar player with a melancholic compositional sense that lends itself to open ends. This is his first disc as a band leader (not counting two with his TIN/BAG duo or one solo prepared guitar disc), and he fully spotlights his tunes rather than his chops. Well done, Mike! From the boppish head for “Stellar” to the floating melody of “The Heights” his melodic sense is truly beautiful. Jason Rigby's tenor playing adds a little color, although I could use some more aggression from him: he prefers very thoughtful extrapolations to emotional outbursts. But then that might be said of Baggetta as well. Those looking for Nels Cline need not apply.

Eivind Opsvik has a warm, meaty tone on the bass, and he can walk with the best of them, but, not unlike Larry Grenadier, he's apt to launch off into his own thing, playing around the drums and melody instruments, commenting and throwing out his own ideas. Drummer RJ Miller is equally at home playing rubato a la Paul Motian or swinging it pretty straight. The duet between Baggetta and Miller on “Heartland” is a really nice example of the kind of communication that is apparent throughout. - Jazz Review

"'Small Spaces' by Bruce Lindsay"

New York based guitarist Mike Baggetta has recorded as a band leader before, but Small Spaces is his first CD as the leader of a quartet. This beautifully recorded CD of seven Baggetta originals and one cover, produced by Baggetta himself, shows that his 2009 ASCAP Young Jazz Composer award was well-deserved.

Baggetta's guitar playing is characterized by a full, warm, tone whether he's vamping behind band members, soloing or duetting with Jason Rigby's tenor. Rigby's tenor style works beautifully in tandem with Baggetta's guitar: at no time do the instruments clash or work against each other, both musicians always displaying an understanding of what the other is doing.

The opening "The Heights" and closer "Trails" are the most open and free-form pieces on this album. "Trails" has a particularly laidback feel to it, with drummer R.J. Miller's brush work and Eivind Opsvik's bowed bass part forming a solid foundation for sparse and atmospheric playing from Baggetta and Rigby. It's the more melodic numbers that work best, however. "Olive Tree," by Taiwanese composer Lee Tai-hsiang, is a delicate ballad with a beautiful melody line, played sparingly and effectively by Rigby after a sympathetic guitar intro in which Baggetta makes good use of harmonics. On "Small Spaces" Miller's drum work moves the tune along with an almost funky beat as Rigby and then Baggetta take solos.

The first half of "Hospital Song" is particularly affecting. For the first three minutes Baggetta and Opsvik each play melodic patterns, underpinned by Miller's busy yet sympathetic drums, until Rigby enters and gradually takes over the lead role. Soon after, this the tune becomes less structured and also less effective, but the melodic approach of the tune's opening returns before the end. As a whole, Small Spaces is evidence of a maturing composer and a talented quartet of musicians who are willing to take the occasional risk while still not losing sight of melody and structure. - All About Jazz

"'Small Spaces' by Clifford Allen"

http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=31828 - All About Jazz NY

"'Small Spaces' by Richard Kamins"

Guitarist/composer Baggetta, a native of Agawam, Massachusetts, is one of those subtle players. He does not overwhelm you with volume or seek to impress with fleet-fingered improvisations. Instead, each piece he performs creates new worlds of possibilities.His first solo CD, "Canto" (2003), was a series of works for "prepared" guitar. He, then, co-authored 2 impressive releases with trumpeter/composer Kris Tiner, utilizing approaches from many different genres but never sounding derivative of any one person or school.

"Small Spaces" is the debut recording for Baggetta's Quartet, an ensemble featuring Jason Rigby (tenor saxophone), Eivind Opsvik (acoustic bass) and R J Miller (drums.) Baggetta's tunes have strong melodies and never sound thrown together for the sake of the solos. Take the title tune: it's under 4 minutes but the piece is notable for Miller's propulsive drumming, Opsvik's supportive yet melodic bass lines, Rigby's short pithy solos and the guitarist's mellow yet still insistent phrases (and his rhythm work is quiet but still pushes the piece.) "Olive Tree", a handsome ballad adapted from Chinese composer Lee Tai-hsaing (born 1941), has a simple and pretty melody and the quartet lovingly plays it several times through. Baggetta takes the only solo, staying true to the emotional content of the song.

Miller's percussion work is impressive throughout; he knows when to instigate, when to hold back. He certainly can "swing" (check out "Stellar", a boppish piece which shows his playful side) and also can be subtle (his soft high-hat work on the opening of "Hospital Song".) He and Baggetta play a duet on "Heartland" - he is the "power" while the guitarist takes a more contemplative approach. Opsvik takes a similar approach to Miller's, push when called for, play melodic counterpoint, let his thick toned-bass lines be a cushion. Rigby has an exploratory style in respect to the guitarist's material, much like on his own new release (see here). His phrases have a sensual flutter on "No Gravity" that opens to a powerful climax while his softer,longer, tones on "Trails" are barely audible yet a necessary component of the ephemeral closing track.

"Small Spaces" is hardly confining music. In fact, the CD shows many sides of Mike Baggetta's personality. He's a confident player, a maturing composer, and a bandleader who is never above his ensemble but a major part of it. One can hear that the musicians really listen and feed off each other's creativity. Go to www.mikebaggetta.com and find out if this group is playing anywhere near you, it's worth the trip. In the meantime, find this recording and be absorbed into its world of rich sounds and fine playing. - The Hartford Courant


Small Spaces (2009, Fresh Sound New Talent, FSNT 339)
Source Material (2011, Fresh Sound New Talent, FSNT 387)



Seeking to reinterpret the state of the American Song through a 21st century filter, the Mike Baggetta Quartet performs Baggetta's original pieces with an intense focus on melody, group interaction and fearless improvisation. This ensemble features saxophonist Jason Rigby, bassist Eivind Opsvik and drummer George Schuller. Mike's compositions for this ensemble draw inspiration from sources as varied as Keith Jarrett's "American Quartet", Leonard Cohen, Edward Hopper and Ornette Coleman. 'Small Spaces', the debut recording from the Mike Baggetta Quartet, is out now on Fresh Sound New Talent records, with 'Source Material', their second album for the same label, coming soon in 2011.

Guitarist Mike Baggetta is one of his generations most original jazz improvisors and composers. It has been said that his performances are "totally compelling" (Jazz Journal - UK), "his melodic sense is truly beautiful" (Jazzreview.com) and that "each piece he performs creates new worlds of possibilities" (The Hartford Courant). Mike Baggetta recently received an ASCAP Young Jazz Composer Award for his compositional talent, and the first album of his works for the Mike Baggetta Quartet, Small Spaces, has recently been released on the Fresh Sound New Talent label. In addition to leading the Mike Baggetta Quartet (featuring Jason Rigby, Eivind Opsvik and George Schuller), Mike co-leads Tin/Bag, a new music duo with California trumpeter Kris Tiner. Baggetta has had the pleasure of performing and/or recording with Tom Harrell, Conrad Herwig, Cameron Brown, George Garzone, Adam Kolker, Ralph Bowen, George Schuller, Jeff Hirshfield, Ken Filiano, Jamie Baum, Tony Reedus, Steve LaSpina, Bill McHenry, Matt Wilson, Ron McClure, Lukas Ligeti, Joe Fonda, Kevin Norton, Bucky Pizzarelli and Ruth Brown among many others. Originally from Agawam, MA, Baggetta's musical studies have been insightfully guided by Ted Dunbar, Vic Juris, Stanley Cowell and Jim Hall. He has performed at the Montreux Jazz Festival, The Kennedy Center, Town Hall and many other leading concert venues worldwide. Mike currently lives in New York City and is an endorsing artist for D'Addario Strings and Evans Custom Amplifiers.

"Blessed with a refined approach and solid technique...Mike Baggetta has the potential to break the mold of post-John Scofield plectrists." - Michael G. Nastos, All Music Guide

"This is a superb band...outstanding, and the performances are totally compelling." - Andy Hamilton, Jazz Journal (UK)

"Guitarist/composer Baggetta is one of those subtle players. He does not overwhelm you with volume or seek to impress with fleet-fingered improvisations. Instead, each piece he performs creates new worlds of possibilities...utilizing approaches from many different genres but never sounding derivative of any one person or school." - Richard Kamins, The Hartford Courant

"Rare is the young musician who fuses avant garde and postbop mettles so effortlessly - Small Spaces is a refreshingly unsafe approach to modern jazz." - Clifford Allen, All About Jazz NY