NEW YORK - Sam Baum, 29, seems most at home and most alive when he is filling the room with his jazz creations. His piano is an extension of him, providing the easiest and most natural way for him to communicate. It has proven to be his voice when the words don't come.
"I sense music is his real mode of communication — it is how he best expresses himself," Jeffrey Nussbaum, Sam's dad, told FOX 5 NY. "It is very natural for him."
Baum is autistic. And although he is verbal at times, there's no question that he is most comfortable composing and playing alongside his band. Its members are from the three most underrepresented groups in jazz: the elderly, the disabled, and women.
On this day, they played music from "The Compositions of Sam Baum," Sam's debut album.
It's not unusual for someone with autism spectrum disorder to feel deeply connected to music but it is rare that the neurodiverse and disabled have the support to release their own music. David Segal, Sam's drummer, was born with a joint condition.
Sam Baum, a jazz pianist and composer. (FOX 5 NY Image)
"To be able to be a part of this and work on your craft — it's been amazing," Segal said, "with an amazingly talented group that also happen to have disabilities."
When Segal plays with Sam, the music takes him on a journey — one that is easy to get lost in.
"[These are] inspired songs, melodies," Segal said. "It's been great to develop along with Sam, these songs that are his."
For bassist Murray Wall, this band is not about ability but connection.
"It's this thing you do, a community," Wall said. "It's a community."
They all play off of each other, both literally and figuratively, in sync, without ever uttering a word.
"As a father of an autistic son, music has been so encouraging," Nussbaum said. "It's more than pride — it's something for the future."
Sam's debut album is available on SamBaum.net and all streaming platforms.
Segal's organization Can Do Musos connects musicians of all abilities all over the world.