With this release, Colorado-based pianist Steve Barta has produced an album full of pleasant, relaxing Brazilian-inflected contemporary jazz. With the assistance of flute king Herbie Mann and his musical associates, Barta works a melodic landscape located somewhere between the hills of Windham and the beach at Ipanema. His original compositions are accessible and attractive, and his piano solos recall Bill Evans in his economical choice of notes. Barta's music ranges from the lyrical beauty of "In Another Life" to the percussive percolation of "On the Edge." The immediately likable title track has the happy feel of a Vince Guaraldi piece, while "Rossport" is a nice upbeat number with flute and piano doubling the melody to produce an appealing, lighter-than-air effect. Dori Caymmi's ballad "Like an Old Piano" receives a tender and affectionate treatment, and "Wish Upon a Canvas" conjures up thoughts of Antonio Carlos Jobim. Herbie Mann is more subdued here than on his own recordings, staying primarily in the lower register as well as using alto and bass flutes. His solos are compact, as Barta's arrangements generally allow limited space for extended improvisation. However, on "The High Road," Mann is given an opportunity to stretch out a bit, and on "Umtradah," he pulls out some of the high altitude phrases which are his trademark while the rhythm section cooks underneath. Tasteful and understated from beginning to end, Blue River shows Barta to be a talented, melodic writer and performer whose music soothes and insinuates itself into the listener's consciousness. [Barta's recordings are available from www.SteveBartaMusic.com].
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AllMusic Review by Jim Newsom