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Bil Cunliffe Sextet: How My Heart Sings

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There’s no shortage of pleasant surprises on this album, which finds one underrated musician giving respect to another. Cunliffe is a Los Angeles-based pianist with a “musician’s musician” rep; Zindars is a percussionist and composer of high professional regard but virtually no public presence. On How My Heart Sings, the former scores the latter’s tunes for a midsize ensemble, and the results often sparkle.

It probably helps that two additional figures lurk in the background. The first is the ghost of pianist Bill Evans, who recorded the most famous interpretations of Zindars’ songs. The second is John Clayton, the arranger and bassist whose Clayton-Hamilton Orchestra has long featured Cunliffe’s piano prowess. On the title track, Cunliffe adapts Evans’ trademark voicings to a septet translation redolent of Clayton’s arranging style. The same happens on the gentle jazz-waltz “Elsa” and impressionistic ballad “Mother of Earl.”

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