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10/12/13

Leo Genovese
Seeds
Palmetto Records

Leo Genovese’s third album as a leader is an arty mix of spirited acoustic jazz and eclectic, electronically enhanced experimentation. The gifted Argentine keyboardist is best known for his work touring and recording with Esperanza Spalding, and she returns the favor by supplying vocals on four of Genovese’s more unusual compositions here. He’s joined on most of the disc, however, by the group he’d once dubbed the Chromatic Gauchos: saxophonist Daniel Blake, bassist John Lockwood and drummer Bob Gullotti.

The album is its most familiar and approachable when Genovese sticks to acoustic piano, whether quietly interpreting the Argentine folk song “Los Ejes de Mi Carreta” or on his handful of originals with obvious jazz underpinnings. “Father of Spectralism” is particularly impressive, its joyous, bluesy energy calling to mind Keith Jarrett quartet albums of the 1970s—Genovese and Blake both shine brightest here. There’s some Jarrett feel to Genovese’s playing on the trio piece “Lets Get High,” too, but on “Posterior Mode” he’s suddenly, pleasingly evoking McCoy Tyner. The sax line launching “Our Historic Future,” meanwhile, somehow hints at Birth of the Cool.

The rest of the album is intriguing for being fresher and riskier but problematic in spots. The opener, “PPH,” adds Spalding’s vocals and programming by Sergio Miranda and Thomas Six to create something ethereal and lovely. “Portuguese Mirror” features a different band, with George Garzone blowing freewheeling tenor sax alongside Ricardo Vogt’s guitar and Francisco Mela’s drums, but Spalding’s lyrics are buried in the mix: It’s difficult to hear whether she’s singing in English, Portuguese or both. “Letter From Wayne,” assuming it refers to Wayne Shorter, packs too many unmemorable ideas into an ambitious but overlong tribute to a composer whose reputation was built on exceptionally focused—and, consequently, memorable—music.

Originally published in September 2013
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