Discussing The Mosaic Project, drummer Terri Lyne Carrington explained: "There's one part of me that's kind of a jazz head who likes complex, thought-provoking melodies and harmonies, and then there's another part of me that really likes funk and pop and things that are accessible." Of course, the two are not mutually exclusive, and Carrington balances them with exciting results on this 2011 release. The Mosaic Project has one foot in the intellect and complexity of post-bop and the other in the soulful, groove-oriented funkiness of R&B; both are important parts of the equation for Carrington, who is joined by an impressive list of guest vocalists that includes Cassandra Wilson, Dianne Reeves, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Nona Hendryx (of Labelle fame), Esperanza Spaulding, and Gretchen Parlato. Although The Mosaic Project has plenty of soul appeal, that doesn't mean that Carrington tones down the improvisation factor or offers note-for-note covers; interpretation, not emulation, is the rule on imaginative versions of the Beatles' "My Michelle," Hendryx's "Transformation," and Al Green's "Simply Beautiful," all of which Carrington successfully pulls into the jazz realm. Those who are familiar with Hendryx's original 1983 recording of "Transformation" (which combined funk and new wave) will be surprised to hear how well the song works as post-bop on Carrington's very different version (which also features Hendryx). Meanwhile, Parlato is featured on an R&B-ish interpretation of Irving Berlin's "I Got Lost in His Arms," and Spaulding has a delightfully capricious spot on her own "Crayola." The Mosaic Project also contains several Carrington originals, one of which is "Magic and Music" (a poignant tribute to soul icon Teena Marie, who was only 54 when she died unexpectedly on December 26, 2010). "Magic and Music" never mentions the Ivory Queen of Soul by name, but Marie's fans will have no problem figuring out that it is about her (for one thing, Carrington's lyrics describe the singer as "wild and peaceful", which was the title of Marie's Rick James-produced debut album of 1979). The Mosaic Project is not recommended to jazz purists, but for those who like their jazz laced with big doses of R&B, there is much to savor on this risk-taking album.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson