Pianist Renee Rosnes ends a two-year recording lull with Life on Earth, a set of mostly original tunes with a world music flavor. There's quite a bit -- maybe too much -- going on here, as Rosnes introduces new sonic elements and personnel to differentiate each track. Thus, "Empress Afternoon" boasts the formidable tabla of Zakir Hussain; "Senegal Son" the percussion and vocals of Mor Thiam; "The Quiet Earth" a string section; "Hanuman" a sampled Balinese monkey chant and three trombones; and so on. The result is at times novel and beautiful. Rosnes, of course, shines on her instrument, aided by bassists John Patitucci and Christian McBride, drummers Jeff "Tain" Watts and Billy Drummond, and saxophonists Walt Weiskopf and Chris Potter. Steve Turre also livens up the closing "Call of Triton" with his conch shells. From a production standpoint, however, Rosnes is a bit all over the map -- literally -- as she strives to incorporate influences from India, Nunavut, Bali, Spain, Senegal, and more. Some of the ethnic elements come across as window dressing, particularly when Native American singer Kevin Tarrant appears out of nowhere to chant at the end of "Icelight." Rosnes and her colleagues seem less encumbered on sparse, lyrical numbers like "Ballad of the Sad Young Men" (by Fran Landesman) and "Nana" (by Manuel de Falla).
Life on Earth Review
by David R. Adler