Multi-reed player Lisa Marie Baratta's second album as a leader, Summertime Jazz, is a collection of standards that sooth the soul like the languid days of summer.
The laidback interpretation of these workhorses creates the relaxing ambience of vacation days at the beach, and although the improvisations are short and succinct-remaining close to the melodythere is superior musicianship and significant variety in the instrumentation that puts this record out of the clichéd easy listening genre and solidly in mainstream jazz.
Baratta's alto saxophone does, at times, channel the not-so-smooth jazz sound of fellow altoist David Sanborn
, especially on "When I Fall In Love," the first take of which has, like Sanborn, an R&B flair, while the second take tends more towards a lighter, instrumental pop vibe. Her melancholic soprano saxophone, on the other hand, dances on the notes and chords of "Black Orpheus," embellishing its blue mood.
Baratta also showcases her amazing skills as a flautist, as her alto flute's flittering vibrato adds sensuality to the quintessentially romantic "Besame Mucho." Her breezy flute endows "Fly Me to The Moon" with a pleasant harmonic gloss. The track also features an overdubbed duet between her flute and alto saxophone.
There is great camaraderie between the leader and her rhythm sectionparticularly pianist Don Turney, whose flowing piano lines and funky rhythm are peppered by gospel-like hints on Horace Silver
's masterpiece, "Song For My Father." The other members of the quartet include Andrew Eberhardt, whose tasteful and reserved drumming keeps the music cooking without stealing the spotlight and John Hettel, whose electric bass solo on "Summertime" is simultaneously complex and swinging.
The disc closes with two live songs featuring Baratta with the California Pops Orchestra: a retro "Let's Dance," marked by her warm clarinet; and a lush arrangement of "Harlem Nocturne," with one of the most emotive alto saxophone solos on any version of the tune.
Despite being light on extemporization, Summertime Jazz is engaging and enjoyable, creating a relaxing and refreshing atmosphere for weary minds.
Track Listing: Unforgettable; Besame Mucho; Fly Me To The Moon; Summertime; Song For My Father; When I
Fall In Love; Autumn Leaves; Black Orpheus; Just The Two Of Us; Let's Dance; Harlem
Personnel: Lisa Marie Baratta:alto, soprano saxophone, flute, alto flute, clarinet; Don Turney: piano; John Hettel: bass; Andrew Eberhard: drums; California Pops Orchestra (10, 11).