John Patitucci goes for a varied approach on Songs, Stories & Spirituals, as the album's title implies. The main influences, constants in his work, are Brazilian music and American gospel, though he transforms those styles into his own introspective sound. And he adds other elements, notably folk and classical music, in a rendition of early 20th century English composer Gustav Holst's treatment of 19th century English poet Christina Rossetti's "In the Bleak Midwinter," show music with Rodgers & Hart's "It Never Entered My Mind," and post-bop jazz with John Coltrane's "Wise One." All of this hangs together due to the core trio of Patitucci on bass, Ed Simon on piano, and Brian Blade on drums, playing in a low-key manner that supports vocals on two-thirds of the tracks. Those vocals, especially Luciana Souza's, have a removed, ethereal quality in keeping with the instrumentalists' contemplative work. Several of Souza's vocals are in Portuguese, but even when she's singing in English, on "In the Bleak Midwinter" (with John Thomas) and "It Never Entered My Mind," she sounds otherworldly. Patitucci gives Simon, who appropriately hails from Venezuela by way of Philadelphia (or the other way around), plenty of solo time and himself stays in the background for much of the record. (He doesn't even play on his own composition, "Love Eternal," which features Simon with his wife, Sachi Patitucci, on cello.) But he comes out in force on acoustic bass at the end with "Wise One," a duet with Blade that confirms his jazz chops. Patitucci's music and playing tend to be more impressive than engaging, but Songs, Stories & Spirituals rewards repeat listenings.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann