A graduate of the Berklee College of Music, where he studied jazz piano, songwriting, arranging and classical music, Michael considers himself a keyboard chameleon of sorts. On any given night, he can be found playing jazz, funk, pop, gospel, Brazilian music and just about anything else.
On Ambient Soul, he gives listeners a taste of everything, featuring his own groove-based compositions, and intriguing interpretations by composers as varied as Herbie Hancock, Peter Gabriel, Antonio Carlos Jobim and the Steely Dan songwriting duo of Donald Fagen and Walter Becker.
The album’s title is aptly given, as this music is textbook ambient jazz. Ambient Soul is an hour’s worth of musical pleasure.
Each of the 11 tracks’ running time exceeds the four-minute mark, with none being longer than the forward-looking Optimism, which clocks in at a respectable 6:56. With slick drum and bass rhythms on this track, Bluestein delivers a joyful melody that suits almost any mood - whether you’re on a drive through the country or relaxing in the den.
One highlight of the disc, among several, is the sensational cover of Steely Dan’s FM. There’s no static at all as Bluestein and his companions deliver a crisp, clear interpretation of the late ’70s pop/R&B classic. With all-acoustic instruments, including a stunning bass line by John Evan and impressive drum play, Bluestein stretches out and then some.
That track is followed by the beautifully rendered The White Sea. Guitarist Will Bernard then takes point on the elegant Polarities. Bernard also leads on the haunting title cut.
The rest of the album is equally impressive, especially on such tracks as the moody yet dramatic Mercy Street, the joyride groove of Day by Day and cool covers of Hancock’s Tell Me a Bedtime Story and Jobim’s Chega de Saudade.