Katia Labèque

Little Girl Blue

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While Katia Labeque usually can be found shaking up classical houses with her sister Marielle in piano duets, here she finds new partners from the jazz world, tackling a series of transcriptions and partial transcriptions combined with improvisations from her guests. She doesn't fool around, either; she chooses to combine forces with bona fide stars like Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, and Joe Zawinul, and younger technical dynamos like Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Michel Camilo, and Joey DeFrancesco -- all of whom are classically trained to some extent. One could argue whether or not this music feels like jazz; very little of it has a pulse, even less swings, and -- being transcriptions -- spontaneity is a sometime thing. But a more pertinent point is whether or not this succeeds on its own terms as music. The lengthy duet with Hancock on "Round Midnight" -- a stitched-together mosaic from several sources -- comes alive when Hancock injects some jazz feeling into his improvisational passages. There are three tracks with Rubalcaba, one with Camilo, and a duet with Marielle on a Camilo composition, but these only catch fire when the Latin pianists latch onto some chordal vamps from their homelands. The one iconoclast in this collection is the crusty Zawinul, who lays down his own exciting synthesized piano ostinatos in "Volcano for Hire" and actually gets some propulsive swing going; unlike the others, he also did his own mix in his New York home studio. While many of these experiments might make refreshing additions to the concert hall repertoire of classical pianists, to be honest, the best ones are those where the jazzers don't seem intimidated by the world-class technique of Labeque.

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