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Michelle Rosewoman's musical interests are broad enough to have kept her from developing a clear image in the crowded jazz marketplace. She has recorded acoustic sets with the likes of Steve Coleman and Greg Osby, leads New Yor-Uba, a large ensemble fusing Afro-Cuban music with contemporary jazz, works as an educator with youth choirs, was commissioned by the Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra to write a piece for orchestra and a quintet of jazz improvisers, and has won prizes as a composer. "Spirit" is her second trio CD, with Kenny Davis, bass, and Gene Jackson, drums (the first had Rufus Reid and Ralph Peterson), and it reveals a strong, resourceful pianist with chops to spare and a firm grounding in the wider jazz tradition.
This well-integrated trio, recorded live at the Montreal International Jazz Festival in 1994, plays in a 60's-and-beyond mode, with the dashing, oblique swing, melodic clarity and harmonic flexibility made popular three decades ago by Miles' rhythm section of Hancock, Carter and Williams. That the set starts with Hancock's "Dolphin Dance" is indicative. Rosewoman penned five of the nine attractive compositions here. The others are "When Sunny Gets Blue," Rosewoman's arrangement of Afro- Cuban melodies, and "Spirit," the old Earth, Wind & Fire hit. On these last two she sings, and she is clearly a committed vocalist of the singing-in-the-shower school. No matter, she belts it out with soul, and it's funprobably would have been more fun if you were there for the performance, though.
Piano trio fans who might otherwise have been put off by Rosewoman's modernist/Cuban affiliations will have no trouble enjoying this bright, energetic and professional performance. Special mention for Davis and Jackson, whose alert, responsive playing is half the fun.
As a kid, my mom told me I'd like jazz. I thought she was nuts. Then I went to hear Cannonball Adderley (with Nat Adderley, George Duke, Walter Booker, Roy McCurdy and Airto) and everything changed. Yeah, mom knows best.