Sometimes the image on the album cover is simply designed to grab our attention, but often, as in the case of soulful, deep voiced song stylist Ada Bird Wolfe and her latest musically and thematically eclectic collection Odd Bird, it’s a glorious reflection of just how they’re feeling in the moment and all they’re trying to convey.
The cover is a fascinating, blurred action shot of Wolfe from the back, spreading her arms like wings and kicking up her leg. It’s as if the beautifully odd jazz bird is telling us that though she and longtime collaborator, pianist Jamieson Trotter, created this 12 fascinating, alternately haunting/reflective and exuberant/liberating tunes largely over Zoom during the lockdown, music is the realm where freedom reigns and we can finally, first cautiously, then more emphatically, let loose.
Aside from extending the wonderful intuitive creative relationship she’s enjoyed with Trotter since performing themed shows in L.A. in the mid 2010’s, Odd Bird gets the duo back to the powerful full ensemble vibe of her 2018 debut Birdie after their unique pure duo album He and Me. There’s a lot to love here, from the quick paced, sassy and scat filled “Odd Bird Bop” (a dual reference to her and Charlie Parker’s penchant for the offbeat) and the snappy cheer up swing tune “Something Fast, Something Light” (snazzed up by the Scott Mayo’s whimsical flute solo) to more contemplative pieces like the cleverly titled Eric Dolphy tribute “Ericolloquy,” “Ashes Ashes” (a mournful yet pointed, socially conscious reflection on the aftermath of California’s devastating wildfires) and “The Wave,” which puts her narrative of a traumatic childhood experience of near drowning into a mood swinging musical context (talk about offbeat topics!).
Other gems that offer a dynamic entry into the latest all over the map Wolfe/Trotter experience is the bustling tropical romance “Samba Batacuda” and “Ordinary Man,” a provocative, meditation on George Floyd’s murder that strips down to the He and Me vocal-piano aesthetic. The greatest part of this truly odd musical Bird and her longtime musical partner is that you never know what engaging oddities they’ll be taking flight and gracing us with next.