Bay Area keyboard player Michael Bluestein is a Berklee graduate who has cut his teeth playing with everyone from Steve Smith and kitty Margolis to pop singer Shelby Lynne. The wide range of styles informs his playing on his self-released album Wild World
. Bluestein brings to this twelve-song album of original compositions and covers elements of piano, fender rhodes, fusion, and electronica in his playing.
However, Wild World
is an inconsistent album. Bluestein's original compositions are solid. His rhodes playing on "Vista" and "Natoma" are as ethereal and moody as I've heard from a rhodes since Gil Scott-Heron went to prison. "Pulsar" incorporates electronics and the effects laden bass of Jon Evans to a staccato beat by drummer Jason Lewis and Bluestein's understated melody line, while "She's Breaking Up" would feel equally at home on both a contemporary and smooth jazz radio station playlist.
Where Wild World
fails is in the covers. Bluestein scores a left-field surprise with Led Zeppelin'S "Ten Years Gone", distilling the pomp and circumstance of the song to a beautiful ballad, and adding up tempo flourishes to the Cat Stevens-penned title track. However, Bluestein's arrangement for Steely Dan's "Black Cow" doesn't stray far from the original, "Bridge Over Troubled Water" never really reaches the majestic heights it should, and McCoy Tyner's "Effendi" gets swept away in a sea of glossy production and smooth jazz cliches. I don't sense that this is a pretension; the energy that Bluestein brings to his original compositions doesn't translate as well to the covers. Still, Wild World
is a serviceable record in a market that sorely is in need of them.