Christopher Ho

Picasso Blue

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Numerous smooth jazz-oriented artists (Dan Siegel, Rick Braun, Everette Harp) are familiar with or have been trained in the straight-ahead jazz tradition but rarely put any of that color in their commercial projects; conventional industry wisdom dictates focusing on one genre at a time. Perhaps because he's always been on indie labels, pianist Chris Ho doesn't feel the need to have it one way or another. On his stylistically scattered (but happily so) Picasso Blue (Rhombus), he not only goes both smooth and traditional but also delves into light samba territory and funky blues. The opening track, "Bliss," finds Ho's ivories dancing lightly over an easy, swaying Brazilian flavor, with Wayne Wayne providing a smoky Stan Getz-like energy. The title track throbs along a seductive bluesy path, with Wayne honking heatedly over Matt Van Besnschoten's winding basslines before Ho takes over with an elegant solo -- all over a simmering Hammond B-3 harmony line. "Women in Art" is the one true smooth jazz track, a simple, melodic light-funk piano-sax statement with an artsy twist: Just as we're getting comfy in the middle of the road, Karen Briggs' feisty, percussive violin chimes in with a provocative solo. The rest of the time, Ho is either waxing eloquently ("Arirang") or jamming on some funky bebop-influenced tunes with his quartet.

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