Renee Rosnes: Art & Soul
On her sixth Blue Note release, burning pianist Renee Rosnes is joined by drummer/husband Billy Drummond and bassist Scott Colley, whose ubiquity of late threatens to reach Dave Holland proportions. Whereas previous outings have stressed Rosnes’s own compositions, this disc contains only two originals—and they happen to be my two favorite cuts. The up-tempo "Romp" is based on simple triadic motifs, giving it a uniquely bright sound. During her solo Rosnes reaches an inspired height, quoting "Now’s The Time" at some length when you’d least expect it. Colley solos nimbly over the fast-moving, unusual changes and Drummond takes a couple of deft choruses. "Little Spirit," a mid-tempo chart in 3/4 with a straight-eighth feel, is a moving tribute to Rosnes’s son, Dylan. It’s simply beautiful, and Rosnes solos her heart out on it.
The other strongest tracks are Ornette’s "Blues Connotation," which the trio tears up, and a song called "Lazy Afternoon," elevated to realms of sheer enchantment by Dianne Reeves’s sensuous vocals. Not quite as affecting, though very good, are the Sinatra ballad "Goodbye," Duke’s "Fleurette Africaine," Egberto Gismonti’s "Sanfona," and a jazz read of Bartok’s "Children’s Song No. 3." Reeves is featured again on an intriguing yet superfluous version of Wayne Shorter’s "Footprints," here called "Ancient Footprints." Richard Bona’s percussion on this track is a nice addition, though, and his kalimba (thumb piano) on "Fleurette" grabs one’s attention.
Jazz musicians play Beatles covers an awful lot these days, and Rosnes perpetuates the trend with a slowed-down version of "With a Little Help from My Friends." I was prepared to hate it, but I have to say it’s grown on me. The reharmonization is totally slick, the performance chock full of soul. Jazzers, if you must cover pop songs, this is the way to do it.