Boundaries out now!

May 31, 2024  /  News

Twin Cities Trio Paints Expansive Soundscapes on Debut Album Boundaries

Boundaries is the debut offering from the trio of trumpeter Jake Baldwin, guitarist Zacc Harris and drummer Pete Hennig. The album features eight spontaneously improvised pieces that range from ambient to raucous, dark to joyous, and meditative to free jazz. Founded when the trio showed up to a recording session without a bassist, they decided to forge ahead with a more open approach, Harris leaning into heavy effects and loops with Hennig’s expansive and textural drumming providing a lush sonic landscape over which Baldwin’s virtuosic trumpet sings and soars.

All three musicians are among the most sought after improvisers in the Twin Cities jazz scene. Both Baldwin and Harris are leaders of their own groups, each having received glowing 4-star reviews from DownBeat Magazine for their latest respective albums (Misc. Items from Baldwin in 2023 and Small Wonders from Harris in 2021) making the magazine’s Best Albums of the Year lists. Hennig is a co-founder, along with Harris, of acclaimed Twin Cities group Atlantis Quartet, which has been at the forefront of the modern jazz scene there for nearly two decades and received the prestigious McKnight Fellowship for Performing Artists in 2015. Baldwin also won a Grammy in 2023 for his contributions to the music on Assassin’s Creed: Ragnarok.

The project came together when Harris had an opportunity to engineer some sessions in a studio. He explains, “During the pandemic, I turned my creative focus to recording, studying mic’ing techniques, mixing, etc. I spent a lot of time during 2020 writing and recording music in my home studio, but I finally had a chance to use a real studio and asked Jake and Pete to come in and play some music. We couldn’t find a bass player for the session, so we decided to improvise for a couple of hours and were really excited with what we came up with.”

The album starts with the first of these improvisations from that day, “You Got the Best of Me.” In the absence of a bass, Harris lays down a CMaj7 drone which Hennig quickly adds to with oblique drums as Harris builds upon the drone. Baldwin enters with a simple and haunting lydian melody that he continues to repeat throughout the piece, showing patient restraint as the guitar and drums shift around his melodic anchor.

The title track follows, with Harris setting up a half step motif in E phrygian which Baldwin quickly latches onto. Cascades of loops ensue from the guitar as Hennig nimbly paints textures throughout. Baldwin shows off his virtuosic technique before Harris overlays a wailing distorted solo giving way to Baldwin’s return. “Crows” comes from a second session done several

months later and delivers a dark and moody opening statement in D minor from the guitar before Baldwin expands and explores.

“Gravity” begins with a mellow idea from Baldwin which the trio patiently builds into in a rollicking groove. The next track, “Tumbleweeds,” is the only piece that the group discussed in advance. Harris says, “I had this idea to take a cliche blues turnaround and build a sort of twelve tone stew using effects. It worked really well as a platform for Jake to spin his deep blues language over.”

“Fjords” begins with another simple drone before Harris drops the tape loop into half speed, bringing out the sub frequencies as Baldwin and Hennig explore the harmony and textures. The free jazz jaunt “Clowns” follows before the album closes with the meditative and ambient sound of “Legs.”

On Boundaries, listeners are invited on an exhilarating musical journey shaped by the spontaneous interplay between these three musicians whose synergy creates a captivating sonic landscape. With each track, the trio fearlessly pushes the boundaries of traditional jazz, demonstrating their commitment to exploration. Boundaries is a testament to the group’s collective artistry and adventurous spirit in the moment.