Notwithstanding the subtitle (“A Collection Of Ballads”), in actuality this is a compilation of solos for tenor sax, clarinet and shakuhachi from Dutch reedist Ab Baars, whose resume is quite remarkable. Recorded in 2017, And She Speaks is a CD to be savored without noise around, or – worse yet – anyone else adding silly observations or puerile analogies. Eight of the nine tracks, all original in their conception, were inspired by as many relevant artists who were evidently instrumental in the solitary performer’s artistic growth. You want the names? Watazumi Doso, Johnny Green, John Carter, John Coltrane, Duke Ellington, Misha Mengelberg, Carl T. Fisher, Oscar Levant.
Baars is a virtuoso, but not in the sense that is commonly understood when talking about saxophonists. His mastery here is reflected in the timbral probing – in each of the instruments – and in the importance of brief, meaningful silences in between ever-intelligible emissions, the whole describing a clearly delineated structure while transferring a profoundness as logical as it is intense. The listener is allowed the right amount of time to sponge up what is being expressed in a given moment, breathe and mentally speak along with the performer, in a way joining the melodic vision of that instant. Fleeting or not.
Baars remains far removed from any commonplace throughout the program, his technical prowess – in conjunction with a poised serenity deprived of mellifluousness – making for absolutely rewarding and, why not, relaxing listening. An oasis of rarely perturbed peacefulness in the midst of the unnerving uselessness of everyday’s words. Sometimes a record is enough to escape from prison.