|Martin Wind Light Blue Laika Records|
Martin Wind is a classically trained bassist with impeccable tone and a polished arco technique. Consequently he has become an in-demand sideman and sought after musical collaborator. His credits include his duo work with guitar great Philip Catherine and current collaborations with fellow German and long time friend, guitarist Ulf Meyer. He is a member of the trios of vocalists Dena DeRosa and Anne Hampton Callaway; a member of the trios of pianists Bill Cunliffe, Ted Rosenthal, and Bill Mays and a member of drummer Matt Wilson’s Arts and Crafts Group. Wind has been a first-call session musician whose work can be heard on several films and if that wasn't enough he is educator on the faculty of both NYU and Hofstra Universities.
With all that work as a sideman, educator and collaborator, its hard to imagine him finding the time to both compose and lead his own group, but that’s exactly what this industrious bassist has done. His last album was an ambitious undertaking that re-imagined the work of Bill Evans. Titled Bring Out the Stars, the album featured Wind’s own quartet in concert with the Orchestra Filarmonica Marchigiana and was a joyous feast of sound.
On Wind’s latest release LightBlue, the bassist is joined by a stellar cast musicians including the clarinetist Anat Cohen, the multi-reed artist Scott Robinson, the trumpeter Ingrid Jensen, the pianists Bill Cunliffe and Gary Versace, the vocalist Maucha Adnet and the drummers Matt Wilson and Duduka Fonseca.
LightBlue is a revealing look into the versatility of this accomplished bassist and in the compositional inventiveness department it is anything but light. We are treated to ten original Wind compositions that show just how far he has come since his days of studying composition and performance with such luminaries as Mike Richmond, Jim McNeely, Kenny Werner and Mike Holober.
The record is divided into two groups, the first half of the album, the more adventurous and daring of the two, utilizes keyboard artist Gary Versace, trumpeter Ingrid Jensen, Scott Robinson on tenor, alto, taragota (A Hungarian instrument similar to a soprano saxophone but made of wood) and bass saxophones, and drummer Matt Wilson, with clarinetist Cohen playing on just one cut. The second half of the album features Wind's more Brazilian influenced, lyrical side. This lineup included clarinetist Cohen, Robinson on tenor, alto, bass saxophone and clarinet, pianist Bill Cunliffe, drummer Duduka Fonseca and the vocalist Maucha Adnet. Each side has its own distinct merits.
The range of diversity in these compositions is quite impressive. Whether it be the opening bars of “While I’m Still Here,” with Versace’s wonderful cinematic sounding organ, or the raucous but jubilant “Power Chords,” with Wind’s rumbling bowing and Robinson’s bellowing bass saxophone solo creating a driving, almost metal-inspired sound, there is something here for almost anyone.
On his composition “Rose,” the delightfully evocative taragota work of Scott Robinson is otherworldly and when played together with Jensen’s clarion trumpet, the group attains an admirable symbiosis. Wind’s booming bass keeps the metronomic time whilevVersace dances intuitively between piano and organ. The music just cries out to be listened to, absorbed and enjoyed.
“Ten Minute Song” is a jaunty swinger that features the versatile Robinson’s wonderful bass saxophone work over Wilson’s shuffling brush strokes and Wind’s walking bass lines. A jabbing piano solo by Versace leads to a wispy Jensen trumpet solo and a reply by Cohen’s buoyant clarinet. Wilson offers his own playful solo before the group returns to a unified conclusion.
The often cold and dreary month “February” is represented here by a brooding ballad. Trumpeter Ingrid Jensen makes the most of the mood with a moving solo. Wind’s pizzicato intonation is remarkably precise and projects beautifully on his emotional solo. Versace’s tinkling piano musings at the coda adds to the perfect ending.
Side two transitions into a more lyrical theme with the folk-inspired, “Genius and A Saint." Here the music features some of the best woodwind interplay I’ve heard in ages. The ubiquitous Cohen is a marvel on her instrument, but Robinson is an underappreciated master of the clarinet and he finds his harmonic groove in a graceful exchange with Cohen that can only be described as pure magic.
Brazilian vocalist Maucha Adnet lends her bossa authenticity to sing Wind’s breezy “Seven Steps to Rio.” Robinson creates a marvelous Getz-ian tenor sound clearly in the spirit of the master’s work with Jobim before putting his own spin on his solo. Cohen’s clarinet rises to new heights as Fonseca’s animated drums add some percussive accents to this catchy tune.
“A Sad Story” finds Wind’s emotive arco-playing merging with Cohens’s soulful clarinet opening this aching lament. Adnet’s voice is charged with the sorrow and regret that the lyrics portray.
“De Norte A Sul” (From North to South) finds Wind and Fonseca laying down a samba inspired beat and features darting solos by Cohen, a soulful vocal by Adnet and an inspired solo by pianist Bill Cunliffe.
Wind rediscovered this closing melody, “Longing,” while researching material for this album. Cohen’s signature woody sound floats over the changes in graceful communion with the backing rhythm. Wind’s bass is again featured on a pizzicato solo that is accompanied by Fonseca’s ever so light touch on his cymbal and by Cunliffe’s thoughtful chording. Adnet’s vocal stylings are splendid.