The Inspiration Of Jazz Flautist Jamie Baum Baum's latest music is inspired by the late Pakistani vocalist Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, one of the most celebrated voices in the world. While Khan died more than 15 years ago, Baum talks about his influence on her new album, In This Life.

The Inspiration Of Jazz Flautist Jamie Baum

The Inspiration Of Jazz Flautist Jamie Baum

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Baum's latest music is inspired by the late Pakistani vocalist Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, one of the most celebrated voices in the world. While Khan died more than 15 years ago, Baum talks about his influence on her new album, In This Life.

Vincent Soyez/Courtesy of the artist


Thanks again for listening. This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, from NPR West. I'm Arun Rath.


RATH: That is one of the most celebrated voices the world has ever heard, the Pakistani singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. Khan died in 1997, but his recordings continue to inspire. Artists like jazz flautist Jamie Baum.

JAMIE BAUM: I think the first recording I had was called "Mustt Mustt," where it was, you know, kind of Westernized. He had done quite a few things with collaborators in the West, and that was sort of the first introduction.


BAUM: Something about his vocal quality and the yearning. I mean, I - when I heard him, it reminded me the first time I heard Coltrane or Miles Davis, you know, just something very visceral.

RATH: Jamie Baum used the voice of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan to inspire her writing on a new album, "In this Life."


BAUM: I actually did some transcribing of his vocal improvisations to get, you know, an idea of what he was doing. It was rather challenging because it's so fast and his technical ability is just uncanny. So I think I had to, you know, use a slowdown machine two or three times to finally sort of get an idea of what he was doing. And it was very revealing both rhythmically and his embellishment and the way that he develops his solos.


RATH: You were a music ambassador for the U.S., right, a jazz ambassador?

BAUM: Yes. It was very exciting. I went on a six-week tour in 2002 and went to India for about three weeks and Sri Lanka, the Maldives and also went to Thailand and then went back on subsequent trips to Bangladesh and Nepal.

RATH: You say in the liner notes to this album that you found that the - your visits to South Asia transformative. What do you mean?

BAUM: Well, I think in general, traveling is just such an important thing to other cultures. I think if more people traveled, we'd probably have a lot more peace in the world. I think being exposed to other cultures, and particularly something that really struck me about India is there's just so many contradictions and paradox. And, you know, you'd be driving down the street, and you'll have a fancy Mercedes next to an ox-drawn cart or cows walking in the road and very modern buildings.

RATH: There's a lot of cognitive dissonance, as they might say, in India.

BAUM: Definitely.


RATH: You keep the sound of your septet distinctive, though. And it sounds like you made a conscious decision not to go native, not to just try to play Indian music.

BAUM: Well, you know, having been there and spent time with musicians there, I understand that there's the depth of study and the depth of that music. And so, you know, I have too much respect for it to try to write in that style without studying it in the kind of depth that I think it deserves. So I was really more interested in seeing ways that I could incorporate the influences into my music and into my compositions.

RATH: I'm speaking with Jamie Baum about her new album, "In This Life." There's another track on here, "Monkeys of Gokarna Forest," that it does make me think of monkeys in India. It's got this kind of mischievous quality but also a certain menacing aspect to it as well.


BAUM: Actually, that was a piece that I wrote after having gone to Nepal for the second time to perform at the Kathmandu Jazz Festival. And we were put up at a wonderful old lodge in Gokarna Forest. And it was a very sort of misty night, and we had to drive up as it was getting dark this long, windy road through the forest. Upon checking in, the first thing they said to us was, make sure that you keep your windows and doors closed because of the monkeys. And so, you know, we did that. And I remember waking up in the morning and just looking out my window, and there were monkeys everywhere. And...

RATH: And they're rotten thieves.

BAUM: Yes. (Laughter) You have to keep your distance.


RATH: Finally, I've got to ask you, you know, if we mention the words jazz flute to a lot of young people today, the person they'll think about - you're laughing, I think, because you know - Ron Burgundy, the Will Ferrell character from "Anchorman," that great scene.

BAUM: Oh, sure. I've got that up on my Facebook page.


WILL FERRELL: (as Ron Burgundy) Ah, ah. That's baby making music, that's what that is. Ah!

RATH: What has been the influence of Ron Burgundy in the world of jazz flute?

BAUM: Oh, well, that, the influence...

RATH: How do you all feel about him?

BAUM: It's great, you know. Anything that, you know - I mean, it's funny, you know. I mean, actually one of the first influences when I first started playing flute was Ann Anderson, from Jethro Tull.


BAUM: When he, you know, did a lot of, sort of pyrotechnics in his own way. So, you know, I had to really work on learning how to stand with, you know, one foot up across my leg and that kind of thing.

RATH: So you - no appearances with a, you know, a knife in your waistband or anything like that?

BAUM: I don't think so. But, you know, it might not be a bad idea.

RATH: That's Jamie Baum. Her latest album is called "In This Life." Jamie Baum, thank you.

BAUM: Oh, thank you. I appreciate it so much.


RATH: And for Saturday, that's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR West. I'm Arun Rath. Check out our weekly podcast. Look for WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED on iTunes or on the NPR app and follow us on Twitter: @nprwatc. On the show tomorrow, an interview with national security reporter James Risen. He has refused to answer a federal subpoena and stands ready to go to jail for being unwilling to testify about his confidential sources. Risen's story raises a lot of questions about the First Amendment and freedom of the press. It's a story that you do not want to miss. Until then, thanks for listening and have a great night.

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