Bassist Martin Wind’s 11th album as a leader is more than the sum of its disparate parts, not because of any clever concepts, but because its 10 originals are so supple. This is most obviously due to Scott Robinson’s bevy of reeds and the versatility of Gary Versace, who plays piano and organ on the album’s front half. “Rose,” for example, slides from a pensive piano-trio ballad (with Versace and Wind joined by drummer Matt Wilson) into an Ellington-like horn schmear, made distinctive by Robinson’s taragota alongside Ingrid Jensen’s trumpet; then Versace flips to organ and recasts the mood on the slow, simmering final section. “While I’m Still Here” is spry gumbo-bop, working a variation of “Sweet Georgia Brown” with Versace on organ and Robinson on tenor. “Power Chords” is a house-quaking rumble, as Wind matches Robinson’s plummeting bass saxophone with deep arco flourishes, Wilson channels his inner rock star with thunderous fills and Jensen plays a scorching, guttural solo.
Save for Wind and Robinson, a totally different ensemble handles the back half of Light Blue, showcasing a Brazilian bent that’s tailor-made for the composer’s melodic amiability. In terms of tone and texture, clarinetist Anat Cohen may be the reigning soufflé chef of jazz. Drummer Duduka da Fonseca is Matt Wilson’s tropical doppelganger, blending rigorous rhythms with a playful spirit; Da Fonseca’s wife, vocalist Maucha Adnet, was a muse for Antonio Carlos Jobim. The surprises are subtler with this crew, which also includes pianist Bill Cunliffe. Cohen and Robinson twine clarinet lines like caffeinated butterflies on “A Genius and a Saint,” and the band puts its own spin on samba with “Seven Steps to Rio,” featuring Wind on acoustic bass guitar. But it’s the adornments that tug the heartstrings so persistently here; listen to how Cunliffe, Cohen, Wind and Da Fonseca seem to take turns verifying Adnet’s sweet lamentation on “A Sad Story.”
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