Since the earliest days of jazz, musicians have utilized material drawn from the repertoire of popular music. Many of the “standards” that jazz musicians have used as a framework or springboard for further musical exploration form the backbone of the modern jazz performance tradition. While jazz musicians continue to create new music inspired by the Great American Songbook, there are also jazz musicians who are discovering material by more recent popular music songwriters. Pianist Herbie Hancock demonstrated this discovery with his release of The New Standard in 1996. Similarly, pianist Michael Bluestein continues in this vein with his 2001 CD release Wild World.
Wild World is a satisfying combination of six original tunes, and four “new standards” arranged by Bluestein and bassist Jon Evans. Bluestein’s trio also pays their respects to the past through inclusion of “My Shining Hour,” and McCoy Tyner’s “Effendi.” The Harold Arlen/Johnny Mercer classic has been performed by a number of jazz artists, and the version by Bluestein and his band mates is no less compelling than versions by others. Tyner’s composition is treated with equal respect. “Black Cow,” the Donald Fagen/Walter Becker collaboration is given an almost gospel-like treatment by Bluestein in a style reminiscent of pianist Gene Harris. “Wild World,” the title cut of the CD, begins with a great rhythmic groove on the piano, and then melts effortlessly into the floating Cat Stevens melody. On originals like “Natoma,” and “Pulsar,” Bluestein not only demonstrates his skills in composition, but also tasteful and artistic use of electric piano and other effects.
The recording quality of Wild World is very good, with clear, balanced sound from all members of the trio. The musicianship by Bluestein his sidemen is also excellent with particular note of very tasteful soloing by bassist Jon Evans, and timekeeping by drummer Jason Lewis. In addition to continuing the pace of adding “new standards” to the pool of jazz repertoire, the fine writing/arranging and musicianship displayed on Wild World would make the CD a fine addition to anyone’s jazz collection.
Track Listing: Black Cow, Natoma, My Shining Hour, The Glow, Wild World, Pulsar, She's Breaking Up, Bridge Over Troubled Water, Effendi, Ode To A Song, Vista, 10 Years Gone
Personnel: Michael Bluestein, piano, Fender Rhodes; Jon Evans, acoustic and electric bass; Jason Lewis, drums.
I was first exposed to jazz while working overseas in Africa as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I would listen to the Voice of America on the radio and they had a nightly jazz program on at 10:00pm. I learned a lot about jazz listening to this program. I also had a friend who listened to real jazz by artists like Charles Mingus, Eric Dolphy and Archie Shepp. On my way home from Africa I landed in New York and had the opportunity to see the George Adams/Don Pullen quartet at the Village Vanguard as well as Kenny Barron and Ron Carter at another club, and was in heaven.