“The feelings of overcoming and transcending are palpable to me. From Muddy Waters to John Coltrane, there is ample proof that it is possible to touch those feelings through sound, and that is why I make music.” – Noah Baerman
Jazz pianist and composer Noah Baerman’s tenacity and his cutting edge yet soulful music have made him an inspiring figure to a growing legion of admirers. Over ten years after nearly walking away from the piano due to his struggles with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS), an incurable connective tissue disorder with which he was born, Noah is playing and composing with more authority than ever. These challenges and his experiences as a foster parent have deepened his already fierce commitment to “message music,” as evidenced by his powerful 2014 release Ripples (“With its heady mix of transcendence, activism, deep lyrical expression and soulful sense of swing, pianist/composer Noah Baerman’s triumphant new CD, Ripples, is one of the best and the brightest releases to grace our region in quite some time.” – Owen McNally, WNPR Jazz Corridor) and his position as founder and Artistic Director of the non-profit Resonant Motion.
Noah earned his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Jazz Studies from Rutgers University in the 1990s under the mentorship of Kenny Barron ( “Mr. Baerman is very creative and imaginative and has the technical wherewithal to bring his creative ideas to fruition.” – Kenny Barron), also having formative experiences with teachers including Ted Dunbar and Joanne Brackeen. Since then he has participated in and composed for numerous recordings, including nine CDs as a bandleader. His 2003 release Patch Kit features jazz legends Ron Carter and Ben Riley and revolves around his struggles with EDS (“Much more than just a commendable exercise in education and humanitarianism, this is a wonderful and inspiring musical journey that’s a testament to the power of jazz, humor and positive energy to turn a challenging situation into one of joy and hope.” – Joel Roberts, All About Jazz – New York). Patch Kit raised awareness and funds for EDS and led to an invitation from Marian McPartland to be a guest on her long-running NPR program Piano Jazz in 2005. Two compositions premiered on that show then appeared on his album Soul Force, a tribute to the life and message of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Soul Force featured Noah’s writing for large ensemble, here featuring trombonist Robin Eubanks, percussionist Warren Smith and saxophonists Steve Wilson, Jimmy Greene, Wayne Escoffery and Claire Daly. In 2008 he was awarded a “New Jazz Works” grant from Chamber Music America/Doris Duke Foundation. The resulting Know Thyself, an emotionally sweeping 65 minute suite for septet, was premiered at Wesleyan University’s Center for the Arts and at the Jazz Gallery in New York and recorded for a 2010 release. He has led a trio consistently since 2001, with that unit also serving as the core for the cooperative ensemble Playdate and Baerman’s chamber jazz octet.
The octet shares space on Ripples, his ninth album as a leader, with the Jazz Samaritan Alliance. A collective of accomplished composer/educator/performers, the unit includes co-founders saxophonists Jimmy Greene and Kris Allen, vibraphonist Chris Dingman and drummer Johnathan Blake. These established artist came together with the purpose of creating and presenting socially conscious original jazz. They appear together on Baerman’s Ripples album and in the fall of 2014 presented their first all-new program, a commissioned series of compositions addressing the subject of hunger and food justice. Other collaborators to join the Jazz Samaritans have included saxophonist Wayne Escoffery, trumpeter Nadje Noordhuis, bassists Linda May Han Oh and Ike Sturm, and drummers Rudy Royston, Otis Brown, III, and Anwar Marshall.
Baerman lives in Connecticut, and has earned a strong reputation as an educator (“Noah Baerman understands the craft, the art and the literature of jazz. This is not token acknowledgement, but knowledge.” -Phil Schaap, Grammy-winning producer and Curator, Jazz at Lincoln Center). He teaches at several institutions including Wesleyan University, where he directs the Jazz Ensemble and teaches graduate courses in music. His teaching concepts have been codified through ten well-regarded instructional books published by the Alfred Publishing Company (“I wish these books had existed when I was first getting into jazz.” – Tom Brislin, Keyboard). His blog, NB Pontificates, covers topics ranging from frank discussions of his experiences as a survivor of disability and abuse to his popular musical Top 10 lists and his own vegetarian recipes. In 2012 he was named Artistic Director of Resonant Motion, Inc., an organization that seeks to explore and deepen connections between music and social causes. Through RMI he has overseen numerous educational workshops on the methodology behind socially conscious art, curated an interactive guest artist series called Jazz Up Close, founded the musically diverse RMI Records, and participated in interdisciplinary work, often featuring his wife, visual artist Kate Ten Eyck.
In 2014 Baerman founded RMI’s flagship performing group, the Noah Baerman Resonance Ensemble as a vehicle both for his composing and his social message. In 2015 the group premiered the acclaimed extended work The Rock and the Redemption, an original suite exploring the notion of Sisyphus as a hero and role model of persistence and principled ambition amidst seemingly insurmountable challenges. The Rock and the Redemption was released as a CD and full-length concert video in the summer of 2018.
“It is an amazing gift to have a bright future in spite of adversity. I hope to create things of sufficient beauty that I can give that gift back many times over.” – Noah Baerman