ListN Up: Renee Baker (March 18, 2022)

ListN Up is a weekly series of artist-curated playlists that offer an intimate sonic portrait of contemporary artists by showcasing the diverse and stylistically varied music that influences their creative practice. 

Renowned as a most influential curator of this century, conductor/composer Renee Baker has created hundreds of “Events”– performances well suited to unconventional spaces (galleries, homes, gyms, museums, armories, etc.), as well as concert halls — which combine elements of music, dance, scenery, and lighting in unpredictable ways. Her creative philosophy is notable for having impacted artists outside of music with her progressive approach. Through her collaborations, she has produced an influential body of over 2000 works in music and visual art as well as movement and film. From the beginning, her orchestra ensemble, Chicago Modern Orchestra Project (CMOP), has stood for wildness, wisdom, creative exploration and dedication combined with passion.

Hi! This is Renee Baker, and I”m really honored to have been asked to submit this playlist of things I’m listening to and things I think you should listen to also. My thread in listening was that these are all original authentic artists — no limits, no boundaries. So with that in mind, listen with open ears, and hopefully you’ll discover not just one piece that you like, but many new artists that you can add to your playlists, and actually educate yourself while enlightening yourself. Have a good listen! 

Light on the Path by Artifacts Trio (Nicole Mitchell, Tomeka Reid, Mike Reed)

This trio exemplifies the melding of different experiential backgrounds, but the rituals of creative music is fertile soil in their hands.

Ensemble Dal Niente (Live), works by Igor Santos, Tania León, Nur Slim, Luis Fernando Amaya, Tomás Gueglio, and Hilda Paredes

Michael Lewanski and his band of fervent new music lovers carefully and thoughtfully are dedicated to bringing all ethnicities into close focus — brilliantly.

Body and Soul scored by Renee Baker, performed by the Chicago Modern Orchestra Project

The vehicle of Chicago Modern Orchestra Project is my dreamchild — no need to wait for others to play my music.

Colenell Could Imbue His Own Little Trio by Bil Smith

A genius at non-traditional notation, Bil Smith’s collective archive of compositions is the “doctoral research” and consciousness opener that every composer should encounter and study.

Sometimes I Forget How Summer Looks on You (feat. Ohmme) by Ben Lamar Gay

Ben Lamar Gay: AACM Wunderkind with imagination and a skill set that can’t be contained. Ben truly shares and imparts his joy of being alive.

Sweet Fruit Falling by Renee Baker, performed by Dee Alexander (voice), Coco Elysses (percussion), and Luc Mosley (saxophone)

Dee Alexander — yes! A diva, a princess, a ruler of sound, Dee Alexander’s velvet voice makes life alright. Able to flip, dip, and caress ANY genre, I love her music.

I Fall in Love Too Easily by Saalik Ziyad

Saalik Ziyad, a brilliant vocalist and performer with the voice that takes you between Pavarotti to AACM and all in between. A spirit gone too soon, but thankfully his talent was ripe before he transitioned and left us with our jaws hanging open with the fluid nature of his voice and creative mind.

STL Free Jazz Collective with Douglas R. Ewart (Live)

Douglas Ewart, dedicated to the ever evolving arena of sounds and art creation. This brilliant conceptual is all that art is to life with no separation. Mentor to many and collaborative force of the AACM, his music lets you dream of what could be. Not to be slept on.

Diasporadiation by David Boykin, performed by David Boykin (saxophone), Nicole Mitchell (piccolo), Jim Baker (piano), Tomeka Reid (cello), and Isaiah Spencer (drums)

Fervent creator of music that represents activism, social justice, this genius eschews the overridden trail of most musicians working to gain popularity. Not a quiet genius, but David Boykin is that voice crying out. Hopefully we listen and heed his fervent music messages that can change us all. This is one WOKE creator of sound.


Refraction Aberrance by Anthony R. Green, performed by OSSIA New Music

Composer, pianist, and performance artist, this ball of creative youth has to be examined and heeded. A no-boundaries creator, his global trajectories — not just in travel, but in his ability to connect us to other worlds — is Afrofuturism on speed. Able to thoughtfully create experiences that make us ponder, make us think critically, and make us listen. I adore the spirit that he endows each creation. He is fearful of NOTHING, and his sonic creations can mold souls…if we care to listen.


I CARE IF YOU LISTEN is an editorially-independent program of the American Composers Forum, funded with generous donor and institutional support. Opinions expressed are solely those of the author and may not represent the views of ICIYL or ACF. 

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